Three outstanding employees of the Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) were recognized at the district’s annual employee recognition tea held on May 24 before the school year ended.
Being honored as the Classified Employee of the Year was Claudia Freitas, bookkeeper at Cabrillo Middle School. Freitas, a Santa Clara resident, has worked at the school since 1998. She cited flexibility and a passion for helping others get their jobs done as must-have qualifications for a job such as hers.
“A bookkeeper was one who took care of general ledgers in the olden days,” Freitas said. “But typically what I do is that I take care of all the financing, all the budgeting. I’m the secretary for the Site Council. I’m in charge of various tasks that have come up through the years. I take care of the honors ceremony. I’m a major key player in the eighth grade graduation. I take care of all the staff orders. I take care of what the teachers need to teach in their classroom. Anything that comes with a dollar figure comes from my office. I make sure teachers have all the tools and supplies they need to do their jobs. I also work with the ASB (Associate Student Body) coordinator.”
Kelly Villarreal, Teacher of the Year, was a guidance counselor at Wilcox High School and Peterson Middle School for six years and, in addition to that, taught the culinary arts for 18 years at both schools.
“When I was teaching the culinary arts program, it was a three-year career pathway program [at Wilcox High school]; I built it from the beginning starting in 1994,” said Villarreal, who is retiring. “My favorite thing was helping students realize that they were talented and that they could be academic and hands on at the same time and be successful. I take a lot of pride in being able to educate our public a little bit on how career pathways are important. I believe strongly that food is a vehicle for growth and building community. I think kids found themselves very successful at being part of a family in that program. That was my biggest achievement, I think. As a counselor, I loved helping kids choose their path for what they want to do after high school. It was very rewarding. I loved both jobs.”
Villarreal says that many of her former students are working as executive chefs and sous chefs all around Santa Clara County at corporations such as Google, Apple and Ebay.
“It’s rewarding to see how my students, after attending vocational college, have been able to find fulfilling careers in the food industry and support their families while doing work they’re passionate about,” Villarreal said.
Kathy Martarano, Administrator of the Year and retiring Director of Educational Options, oversaw two schools and a program under the Educational Options umbrella: Santa Clara Adult Education, Wilson Alternative High School and Family and Child Educational Services (a program for preschools and before/after school care at district elementary schools). Martarano worked for 43 years in education—36 years in Educational Options and 7 years in teaching.
“Working in Educational Options is like being in a ministry,” Martarano said. “I work with many people who struggle with many life skills. We also have a population of students—I call them students of different abilities—that struggle in life just to be able to learn life skills, how to survive on their own, how to volunteer, how to get a job. We work with students from cradle to career which include pregnant parenting teens, high school students who weren’t successful in the comprehensive system, adults who are coming back to school to get their high school diploma or their GED, adults who are learning English as a second language and adults who are here to get career training. We also have adults who are learning parenting skills and are looking to help their children in school.
“What is so great about my job,” she continued. “Is that it’s about helping the most marginal, the students who struggle the most in our society who come through our doors and we are able to help them get an education and a job,” Martarano continued. “It has been an honor to work in this outstanding school district.”