GUSTINE - Two Gustine Unified School District employees were recently honored at an annual countywide program which recognizes leaders in the educational field.

Barbara Azevedo, a special education teacher at Gustine High, and Coy Corona, attendance clerk at Gustine Elementary, were among finalists for countywide “Excellence in Education” honors bestowed at an October program in Merced.

Azevedo was Gustine Unified’s nominee for county Teacher of the Year, while Corona was nominated for Employee of the Year honors.

Dr. Bryan Ballenger, district superintendent, said both employees are well deserving of the recognition.

He said Azevedo’s contributions go beyond the classroom as she works with the leadership/ASB  students and is involved in activities to help promote and build school spirit.

“What we think of as a good teacher, Barbara is even better when it comes to working with kids,” he commented. “She just goes above and beyond in everything she does, and does it well. She is amazing.”

Corona, he said, brings her own special touch to the difficult position of attendance clerk.

“She builds excellent relationships with students and parents. When we have chronic absenteeism she is right on top of it,” Ballenger commented. “She is kind and caring, but at the same time consistent, and she knows the resources that are needed to help those families. She puts herself out there for families, and they appreciate it immensely.”

Azevedo has taught at Gustine High for 27 years. After being an ag teacher for five years, she switched to special education.

The 1986 Gustine High graduate grew up with a passion for education, she related. Her kindergarten teacher planted that seed, Azevedo reflected, and several high school teachers were also role models who further inspired her.

“I don’t think that you just become a high school teacher,” she commented. “You are usually inspired by the ones that you had.”

Her joy, Azevedo added, is working with students.

Special education encompasses a particularly diverse group of students, she noted.

“I really enjoy special education,” Azevedo stated. “You have to be really flexible and caring, and understand their differences.”

Every day is different, she said, which adds to her enjoyment of the profession.

While she is a teacher, Azevedo said, she has also learned much from her co-workers, students and their parents.

“I am very appreciative,” she remarked. “This is a passion for me. It is a really good way of life, and I enjoy it. We have good kids here.”

Across town at the elementary school, Corona’s duties revolve around making sure that students are in the classroom so they can reap the full benefits of their education.

That role involves working closely with children and families to promote regular attendance and overcome obstacles which may be keeping children out of the classroom.

“I keep in touch with parents and teachers to make sure that students come every day and on time,” said Corona, who is in her fourth year at GES.

Developing a rapport with students and families is a critical part of her job, Corona reflected.

“I try to build relationships. Sometimes they don’t know that we are here to help. We are not here to be judging them,” Corona commented.

While her job focuses on attendance, Corona said, she tries to help out in any way she can.

She, like Azevedo, expressed appreciation to be nominated for county honors but emphasized that she is simply doing her job.

“It is very rewarding to work with kids. Sometimes they just come in and want to say ‘hi’ to you and give you a hug,” she said. “I really like my job. I come here and treat everyone like I would like to be treated.”