- Val Vista Lakes Elementary
GPS employees come together for 25 year celebration
For just a few hours, the Governing Board room inside the Gilbert Public Schools’ district office was transformed into a gathering place with plenty of food and decorations. GPS employees from various schools and departments came together for what felt like a family reunion. There were laughs and smiles all around. The celebration was a breakfast for those who’ve spent the past 25 years working for the district.
“You’ve done what you can for our students each and every day. For that, I’m eternally grateful,” said Dr. Shane McCord, superintendent of Gilbert Public Schools.
A total of 43 employees were recognized this year. Their school administrators and department supervisors joined them for the festivities. As each honoree received a shiny glass trophy with their name on it, Dr. McCord shared some highlights and memories from their long careers. These reflections were a reminder of the dedication and commitment GPS employees make to students, families, and the Gilbert community.
“You care about what happens to kids, and that’s the most important part of education,” Dr. McCord said.
Over the past 25 years, these employees have witnessed a great amount of growth. The population of Gilbert has more than tripled since 1996. Seventeen more schools have been added to the district along with nearly 1,200 new employees. Jim and Robyn Lavin, who were both honored this year, have seen the changes firsthand.
“It’s been amazing. We are a big school district, but it still feels like family. I think that’s the core value of Gilbert Public Schools just having that family atmosphere,” said Jim Lavin, assistant principal and athletic director for Desert Ridge High School.
The married couple met, because of Robyn’s father, John Thiele, who was also a longtime Gilbert Public Schools teacher. He taught at Gilbert High School and mentored Jim. After four or five years, Thiele decided to introduce Jim to his daughter. The two went on to get married and have a family.
“If it was not for Gilbert Public Schools, who knows if we’d ever met,” Jim said.
Robyn cannot imagine doing any other career. Teaching was her passion from a young age. As a child, she would even pretend to play school and be the classroom teacher. She’s spent the past 25 years working as a reading specialist at Gilbert Elementary. Robyn loves her school’s campus, her colleagues, and her students.
“That’s what brings me here every day is the kids,” she said.
While the employee celebration had a lot to do with reflecting on the past, many are also looking toward the future of the district. The Lavins have some words of wisdom for teachers just beginning their careers.
“As teachers, we are naturally committed to doing a good job, but I think it is important to work hard but also find balance in your life where you are not burdened with work. I would also suggest any new teachers get their master’s degree as soon as possible,” Jim said.
When times are challenging, Robyn says that’s when teachers should really lean on their colleagues.
“We’ve all had years with really tough situations, but I’m just really thankful for the support. I would say just stick with it. It’s definitely a commitment, but stick with it,” she said.