El Estoque

And this year’s Employees of the Year are

Lam+poses+at+her+desk+in+the+MVHS+guidance+office.+Lam+was+one+of+the+winners+of+the+2018+Employee+of+the+Year+awards.+Photo+by+Maggie+McCormick.
Lam poses at her desk in the MVHS guidance office. Lam was one of the winners of the 2018 Employee of the Year awards. Photo by Maggie McCormick.

Lam poses at her desk in the MVHS guidance office. Lam was one of the winners of the 2018 Employee of the Year awards. Photo by Maggie McCormick.

Lam poses at her desk in the MVHS guidance office. Lam was one of the winners of the 2018 Employee of the Year awards. Photo by Maggie McCormick.

Maggie McCormick

[dropcap]E[/dropcap]very year, the MVHS staff receives an email asking them to nominate a colleague who demonstrates values or ethics that they feel should be recognized by other staff members through the Employee of the Year award. After nominations, the staff receives  one more email with the finalists and a short blurb about each person. They then vote from this list of finalists, and this year, guidance counselor Sylvia Lam and senior clerical assistant Jennifer Giarritta were the winners.

Both Lam and Giarritta were finalists in previous years, but this was the first time either received the Employee of the Year recognition. Lam was off-campus the day the winners were announced, so her phone was full of messages from other counselors and staff members congratulating her achievement before she read the good news herself. She was very surprised that she won and was elated when she read her name on the email.

“I was shocked and definitely honored because it’s nice to know you’re doing good work for the kids and it feels good to be supported,” Lam said.

Lam poses at her desk in the MVHS guidance office. Lam was one of the winners of the 2018 Employee of the Year awards. Photo by Maggie McCormick.

Lam poses at her desk in the MVHS guidance office. Lam was one of the winners of the 2018 Employee of the Year awards. Photo by Maggie McCormick.

Lam started working with kids when she was in high school as a volunteer at her local elementary school. In college, she decided to pursue a career in counseling after having a positive experience with her high school counselor. Lam graduated from UC Davis, and then went on to pursue a graduate degree from University of San Francisco. After working at several different sites in graduate school and afterwards, Lam came to MVHS and has been in the counseling profession for 17 years. Lam feels that the one-on-one relationship that counselors and students have is important and something that she really enjoys experiencing. She chose to work with high school students rather than younger kids because she felt a stronger connection with the older students.

“I think school is one thing, but when you make that connection with kids, when you build that relationship, I think you foster a lot of positive growth and I just knew I always enjoyed doing that,” Lam said.

While Lam’s recognition came from her outstanding work as a counselor, Giarritta’s job as senior clerical assistant was a result of the impact of a college counselor. Giarritta had a background in bookkeeping and accounting and worked for corporations, like Applied Technology and InTech, at the beginning of her career before her daughter was born. After her daughter went to college, Giarritta made the decision to go to school to get a degree, with the intention of working jobs similar to her previous ones. However, her counselor showed her a different route that she would eventually become very happy with: a career in the education field. After graduating from West Valley and Mission College with a degree in information technology and office administration, Giarritta applied for a job at MVHS.

“This was the school I wanted to be at,” Giarritta said. “When I interviewed at all different schools, I would go to all other schools and be like ‘I wanna work there [at MVHS], I wanna work there.’”

Giarritta poses at the front desk of the MVHS lobby. A staff member at MVHS for two years, Giarritta is the second winner of the 2018 Employee of the Year award. Photo by Maggie McCormick.

Giarritta poses at the front desk of the MVHS lobby. A staff member at MVHS for two years, Giarritta is the second winner of the 2018 Employee of the Year award. Photo by Maggie McCormick.

For the last two-and-a-half years, Giarritta thought she had mostly just been known as the lady at the front desk. Being recognized by her colleagues left Giarritta teary-eyed as she read the email announcing that she won the award.

“When I opened up my email and saw my name I was really surprised, I kinda got choked up,” Giarritta said. “It’s really an honor to be nominated by your peers, by the school. I felt very humble about it.”