The men and women who devote the lives to education do so because they care for children and want to help others; it is a passion and, at times, overlooked by others.
Recently, the Sedalia School District 200 took the opportunity to recognize the outstanding educators and associate educators throughout the district.
Wynee Akers, a Parkview Title One Reading teacher, and Omsoro DeLeon, a custodian at Washington Elementary were selected from among the 19 educators at the building levels for their dedication to the students, staff and patrons of Sedalia schools.
For virtually all of her life, Akers has wanted to be a teacher.
For the last 31 years that is what she has done.
“Until I was in second grade, I wanted to be a nurse,” Akers said. “Then my mom became an elementary school secretary and I got to go to work with her during the summer. That’s when I found out that school was a magical place.
“So, at the age of seven, I decided I wanted to be a teacher,” she added. “I loved books and I was a good student so it was a natural fit.”
Akers said that when she was growing up there was an after school program on KRCG-TV in Jefferson City called “Showtime.”
“There was a librarian from one of the public libraries who used to appear on the show,” Akers said. “She would bring a puppet with her, Bookworm.
“I loved Bookworm and how he would hang on every word in each book and he looked intently at each page; he seemed real to me,” Akers added. “It is because of that librarian and Bookworm that I was inspired to use props and puppets in my classroom.”
Akers said that many of the puppets that she uses were made by her mother and her husband’s grandmother.
“I just want students to have and share a love of books and learning the way I do,” Akers said. “Every day when I get up I feel fortunate to know that I am doing what I love.
“I can’t imagine doing anything that isn’t related to school; it’s such a natural fit.” Akers continued. “Okay, I don’t think I could be a cook, that’s too demanding, I don’t see how they always have a good, hot lunch ready for us, I think I would have to say ‘it’s not ready yet, you need to come back later when it’s ready.’”
Akers commented that she has been grateful throughout her teaching career to work with some incredible and inspirational administrators and teachers.
“My teacher hero is Susan Pirtle who also teaches reading,” Akers said. “We have shared a classroom the last three years and have worked together since 1987.
“I have learned more from her than any single teacher or from any class I have ever taken,” Akers added. “It will be very difficult for me when she retires.”
After 31 years in the classroom Akers realizes her years in the classroom are nearing an end as well.
“My husband Randy and I have three children, Jacob is mentally handicapped and lives in an independent supported living center in Rolla, Brock is a student at State Fair Community College, and Hollee is a senior at Smith-Cotton.” Akers said. “When she goes to college next year it is going to be very difficult and I know I want to keep teaching to keep busy.”
Akers said that after her daughter graduates college she may retire saying that she would like to volunteer more with her church, (New Hope Baptist Church) travel with her family and publish a children’s book, which she has written a rough draft of and is tucked away at her house.
For now, though, her focus is her students.
“It’s such a good thing when you share a book with your students,” Akers said. “I love the silence when they are focused and intent on the story and then the question and comments they have after the story is read.
“For me, books are simply magical, it’s the journey and the far away interesting people and places they can introduce the reader to,” Akers added. “A lot of kids need an escape and a comfort and that is what a book can become for them.”
For the students at Washington Elementary comforts are not only found in books but they can be found in the engaging smile of their janitor, Osmaro DeLeon.
DeLeon is a very humble man who thanks God for the blessings he has been given every day.
“I am so grateful for my job here at Washington,” DeLeon said. “I love seeing the little ones and helping the students and the adults here.
“I have been blessed and so I want to try to help others for all I have been given in my life,” he added.
DeLeon said that he gives thanks to God for his family and friends, his job, his church and faith and his life and he does not take any of those entities for granted.
Former La Monte Superintendent, Joan Tidwell, gave DeLeon his first job as a janitor.
DeLeon worked in La Monte for a few years before he heard about an opening in the Sedalia 200 School District.
“I had tried for three years to get a job in Sedalia,” DeLeon said. “Then one day Mr. Norton who at the time was the principal at Heber Hunt where my children went to school, spoke to me about a job in the district.
“He was one person who believed in me and supported me and my dreams,” DeLeon added. “He is an incredible person.”
Norton eventually moved to the junior high as principal and recommended DeLeon for a position there when an opening became available.
“I worked at the junior high for five years and I enjoyed my job but I was working nights and I wanted to be with my family, to be able to spend more time with them,” DeLeon said. “My family are the most important people in the world to me.”
DeLeon and his wife Aracely DeLeon have four children, sons Daniel, Lennyn, Diego and a daughter Meylin.
“When the opening at Washington became available, I was interviewed by Mrs. Volk, (Lisa) the principal.” DeLeon said. “I liked her and the confidence and trust that we have now, I knew from the start I could trust her.
“The staff is great here and I feel like I am a part of the Washington family,” he added. “Everyone is very kind and helpful here.”
DeLeon works from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and said he is responsible for most of the day-to-day responsibilities at the school as he is the only custodian there during the school day.
His job entails cleaning the cafeteria during and after the lunch shifts, maintaining the classrooms and halls, unloading trucks, and taking care of emergencies that may develop which can be a challenge during the flu season DeLeon said with a smile.
“Now I get to see my little boy, Diego every day,” DeLeon said. “He is a third grader here and he always wants to give me hugs; the other children at school used to tease us and ask us if we are brothers.
“The little ones want to speak Spanish with me all the time,” he added. They care and always try to make me smile, I may not remember all of their names but I do remember their faces; I can never forget their smiles.”
The smiles that he sees on the faces of his children and wife are why he is grateful for his job at Washington.
“Being with my family is very important to me,” DeLeon said. “We have a rule that we always have to eat dinner together; that is when we talk and laugh and share.
“We have only one television in the house, because that is something we do together as a family too, we watch a show together and then we talk,” he added. “We also spend a great deal of time together with sports especially soccer.”
The DeLeon children all play soccer. Games and practice keep the family busy, as does their commitment to their church.
“We attend St. Patrick’s Catholic Church; it is amazing how the church can change a person,” DeLeon said. “The boys sing at Mass and all of the children are involved with activities at church.
DeLeon is helping other members of the Hispanic community to gather pictures to be a part of the 150th anniversary celebration book for the church, which they will celebrate in October.
His heritage is important to DeLeon but obtaining his United States citizenship in 2012 is equally important.
“I am so blessed to be a part of this great country,” DeLeon said. “When the day came, I thought finally I am no longer one who speaks a different language or has a different skin color but I am a part of this great country.
“I have great friends and family and I value them and my God; I have been blessed to be a part of this community because of the people,” he said. “There is always more value in people than any material goods and I am fortunate for the people I know and work with each day.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484