BUCKHANNON – Linda Smith is a cook at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School, but on Friday BAES students, teachers, administration, service personnel along with Upshur County officials were the ones cooking up a surprise for her.
Smith, who has served as a cook at BAES for 12 years, was selected as the Upshur County Service Personnel of the Year. BAES fifth-graders were told the news early Friday morning and asked to keep it a secret – and they were busting at the seams to offer Smith congratulations by noon.
That’s when the announcement was made public.
BAES Principal Susanne Britton was very excited that one of her staff was selected for this honor.
“We put out nomination forms, and our staff completed the forms with their nominations while describing what they did for the school,” Britton said Friday before the announcement. “The form also asks those making nominations to tell why they think the nominee is a good representative for the school. Those are submitted, and we hang them up in the lounge for a week or so.”
“People are able to peruse them, then we have a voting system,” Britton explained. “We use written ballots, and our employees vote for who they think is the most deserving.”
Britton said Smith does lots of wonderful things to help the students and her fellow staff members at BAES.
“She colors Easter Eggs for the kids, and she and another cook organize a pumpkin coloring contest,” Britton said. “She collaborates with the art teacher and he has the students draw pumpkins. The winning pumpkin is then designed by Smith and her friend and then they submit it to the students. She literally makes the pumpkin from the drawing – either by painting or carving – and then presents the pumpkin to the student who won the contest.”
Smith is also responsible for the fresh fruit and vegetable grant.
“She stays after her cooking shift ends and takes on another duty here at BAES,” Britton said. “She orders and prepares fresh fruit and vegetable samplings for the students through that grant. She also volunteers at our parent involvement activities, which most service personnel do not help with.”
Britton said Smith always cooks special things, which she brings in to share with BAES staff members.
“She is really kind with the students, who love her,” Britton said. “She also helps plan our Christmas Party.”
BAES Assistant Principal Shannon Lewis said Smith is amazing.
“She is kind to the kids, and they really love her,” Lewis said.
When the announcement was made in the BAES cafeteria, Smith was very surprised by the news. BAES kindergarten and fifth-students shouted, “Congratulations!”
Superintendent Dr. Sara Lewis-Stankus told those gathered that employees responsible for cooking meals are very important.
“We all like to have a good lunch, a good breakfast and a good snack,” Stankus said. “Miss Linda has been named Upshur County Service Personnel of the Year. That means she is going to fill out an application and send it in to Charleston – we are going to help her – we hope she is named the best service personnel in the state – we think she is.
“We are really excited to have you as a cook, and [we thank you for ] all that you do and all that every one of our cooks do. We are blessed in this county to have such great employees.”
Smith said her favorite thing about her job is seeing the kids.
“I love the kids and enjoy having two of my grandchildren here at BAES,” she said. “I enjoy the staff that I work with, and I like that we get to do different activities with the students like coloring Easter eggs and the pumpkin contest. It’s nice to get to do some things with the kids.”
She said she likes to give the kids a hug when she feels they need it.
“You never know when you might make someone’s day,” Smith said. “I also like seeing how much the students have grown over the summer and hearing the stories of what activities they did over the summer.”
Smith will be in the running for the West Virginia State Service Personnel of the Year. The winner will be announced by the West Virginia Department of Education in June or July.