Susan Kirkpatrick, a bus operator from Gilmer County, is this year’s winner of the West Virginia School Service Personnel of the Year Award.

The announcement was made during a virtual program Tuesday, September 29, 2020, by West Virginia Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch and West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE) President Miller Hall.

According to the release, lthough the pandemic required programmatic changes, the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) and the WVBE hosted the annual School Service Personnel of the Year award jointly with the state’s Teacher of the Year award during the virtual celebration.

Officials explained that Kirkpatrick is a 36-year veteran bus operator for Gilmer County Schools. She is also an EMT in Gilmer County and teaches first aid and CPR to school staff. Additionally, Kirkpatrick serves as an athletic trainer for Gilmer County’s sports teams and as a safety presenter to elementary school children with the Buster the School Bus program. Throughout the pandemic, Kirkpatrick has driven her school bus routes to help feed students and make home visits. Because of her concern, she often called students if they failed to pick up their meals just to make sure they were okay.

“Susie Kirkpatrick represents the importance and the impact our school service personnel have daily on the lives of our children,” Superintendent Burch said. “She has made a vested interest not only in the children but in the community as a whole, and I am grateful to her for that. She is the type of employee that sustains our system and ensures that there is a foundation of support for our children.”

Finalists for this year’s award included Gail Artimez, executive secretary of transportation, Marshall County; Stephanie Bennett, coordinator of services and payroll supervisor, Upshur County; Debra Dye, supervisory aide, Wirt County; and Stephanie Toliver, classroom aide, Nitro Elementary School, Kanawha County.

The WVBE established this annual award program in 2010 to recognize outstanding school service personnel employees, including aides, bus drivers, cooks, custodians, maintenance workers, office workers, and other school service personnel who best exemplify the qualities of an outstanding employee.

The program honors individuals who have demonstrated exceptional skill and dedication in the performance of their jobs, thereby earning them the respect and admiration of students, teachers, administrators, coworkers, and parents. Each year the program honors one person for his or her contribution to the school and community.

The program is designed to work similarly to the state’s Teacher of the Year program, which honors a classroom teacher who inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn, have the respect and admiration of students, parents and colleagues, and play an active and useful role in the community as well as in the school.

The West Virginia School Service Personnel Association supports this recognition by providing a $500 financial gift and awards to the winner each year; Horace Mann Insurance also provides the winner with a $2,000 financial gift; and West Virginia Tourism provides a weekend excursion to a state park, a glass suncatcher from Blenko Glass, a lighted desk plaque made by Wheeling Park High School students and an iPad from the WVDE.