■ Hemet Unified School District
Hemet Unified School District created its first district-wide student essay contest. However, this contest was unique because although it was created to recognize students, it expanded to mutually benefit staff by gaining a better understanding of the students they serve.
Educators are continually asking “what is best for students?” Based on staff’s experience and interactions with students, new programs and initiatives are implemented to best support the students they serve. This year, the staff was able to gain a better understanding of the life of an HUSD student.
Students, kindergarten through grade 12, were asked to submit an essay following the prompt, “A Day in the Life of an HUSD Student.” Students were encouraged to describe their daily routines, celebrations and struggles in a 300 word essay. This contest would allow staff to recognize a first, second, and third place winner in an elementary and secondary category.
What began as a recognition opportunity, quickly expanded, and the staff realized this contest’s full potential. Staff was able to use the information they received in the essays to understand what areas students viewed as a growth opportunity and what areas really helped support students throughout their educational journey.
In addition to this insight, staff members that do not get to interact with students on a regular basis were asked to be the judges for the contest. These employees were able to learn more about the daily lives of Hemet students.
Elementary school winners: Maribel Polanco, Russell Johnson, Annalise Vasquez.
Secondary school winners: Miriam Berlanga, Louis Martinez, Luis Velasco.
• Annette Davis-Thole, director of Elementary Education
• Ann Moore, Centralized Student Services manager
• Donna Webster, Human Resources technician
• Diana Diaz, Transportation Department clerk
• Patty Pereida, District Community liaison
• Toni Whipperman, Health Services secretary
• Cathy Anady, teacher on special assignment (TOSA) for secondary English
• April Jones, student support service, marriage and family therapist
• Robert Kraemer, warehouse delivery driver