Vista Grande Elementary School classroom paraeducator Cindy Hill has been cleaning up the past month, winning two top awards for her work at the Danville campus.
Not only was Hill declared San Ramon Valley Unified School District’s Classified Employee of the Year, but on April 27 she was honored as one of five winners at the eighth annual Contra Costa County Classified Employees of the Year awards.
"Honestly, this is a big honor but I am really humbled and even a bit embarrassed. There are so many people who go above and beyond the call of duty all the time and to be singled out is overwhelming," Hill said.
Hill will now be eligible to keep her winning streak going at the state level. She will find out if she wins during Classified Employee Appreciation Week, May 21-25.
"Cindy has been a leader among the paraeducators," SRVUSD officials said in a statement. "She articulates with the administration very clearly regarding any concerns the paraeducators may have and she is comfortable sharing new goals or ways to improve student learning."
Of the county's five Classified Employees of the Year, Hill won in the paraeducator and instructional assistants category. She was the sole representative from SRVUSD.
Having served the district for a total of 28 years, Hill has been a staple of her community for some time, officials said.
Hill has been a classroom paraeducator at Vista Grande in Danville for the past 19 years, and was a volunteer at the school for nine years before that. As a parent volunteer, one of her main responsibilities was to raise funds that helped pay the salaries of paraeducators.
"Not all schools have this program anymore because it is not funded by the state. It is literally parent donations that fund our salary," she said.
She does not let the lack of state financial support get her down, however, saying that she loves her job and the fulfillment that comes with helping children learn and thrive.
"My husband always says to me, ‘Do you know how cool it is that you get to look forward to going to work every day? Do you know how few people get that luxury?'" Hill said, laughing. "It’s incredibly fulfilling, even if I just help a few kids here and there."
As a paraeducator, Hill’s responsibilities primarily involve taking care of the little things and making sure students do not get lost in the shuffle of a full classroom. During classroom hours, she will often sit on the side with a struggling student and help them along through more intimate one-on-one interactions.
"I just pitch in when I see something needs to be done ... I do small things and try and keep them under the radar. I'm not one to draw attention to myself. I am deeply honored and equally humbled that my work over these 19 years has been so appreciated. Seeing former students who remember me from years ago -- that makes my day!” Hill said.
An average day sees Hill acting as a jack-of-all-trades, helping students out wherever they need it most. Be it helping explain a confusing math problem, moderating a dispute with another student, or just talking to a lonely one, Hill’s objective is to make kids feel more connected with their school and environment.
Hill also says one of her particular skill sets is helping the "new kid" feel welcome.
"I grew up on an Army base in Germany and we had to move around, so I know what it's like to be the new kid at school," Hill said. "When those kids come in a lot of the time they are wide-eyed and scared, and I make sure to go out and connect with them."