- Desert Ridge Junior High
25th Annual Gilbert Community Excellence Awards
On Thursday, November 18, three members of the Gilbert Public Schools family will be honored at the 25th Annual Gilbert Community Excellence Awards. As honorees, they are being recognized for their achievements in education and commitment to helping GPS students and teachers strive for excellence.
Shawn Abele, Instructional Technology Coordinator, Technology Services
Dr. Walter Delecki Educator of the Year
For nearly two decades, Shawn Abele has worked as a Computer Science Educator serving children and adults in Michigan and Arizona. She began her career with Gilbert Public Schools just four years ago, and Abele says she loves everything about her job.
“For the first time in my whole life, this is a job that I really love to go to,” she said.
Abele is committed to putting students first. She finds ways to utilize technology to promote curriculum standards and inspire learning among K-12 students. She is most proud of the TIEs program, which puts Technology Integration Educators in the classroom to support teachers.
“I think students are very excited about technology to begin with, so they are always enthusiastic and ready for us,” she said.
Abele is being honored at the 25th Annual Gilbert Community Excellence Awards as the Dr. Walter Delecki Educator of the Year. She was shocked to find out that she had been nominated for such a prestigious award.
“I just feel like I’m doing my job,” she said, “It’s an honor, and I’m completely humbled by it.”
The feeling of community is what Abele loves the most about Gilbert Public Schools. She says while the district is large, it still gives off that small town feel.
“People are just close to each other. They are kind to each other. They reach out to each other. They help each other. I think that’s the coolest thing about Gilbert Public Schools,” Abele said.
Ellen Baird, Equipment Specialist
Mrs. Sharon Orr Support Staff of the Year
Ellen Baird understands the importance of accessibility in education. For the last 20 years, she’s worked as an Equipment Specialist with the Deaf/Hard of Hearing Department at Gilbert Public Schools. Her own daughter also went through the program. Part of Baird’s work is overseeing assistive listening devices for students with hearing loss.
“They all have different assistive listening needs. I’m so lucky that I get to go from campus-to-campus to set them all up. A lot of these students were in our preschool program, and now I get to follow them throughout their school career. It’s awesome,” she said.
Baird spent 18 years working as a paraprofessional in the Gilbert Public Schools Deaf/Hard of Hearing Preschool classroom. She’s now working towards her certification to become a Speech and Language Pathology assistant. Baird says her work is inspired by the dedication of GPS teachers and the progress made by students.
“To teach them these things and see their progress, it’s like seeing it new for the first time every single time, and that is my favorite thing about working for the district,” she said.
Baird is being recognized as the Mrs. Sharon Orr Support Staff of the Year recipient at the 25th Annual Gilbert Community Excellence Awards. She says that she is completely honored by the award. Baird hopes she is able to return to her colleagues and students what they have given her over the years.
“I just want them all to know that they are incredibly special. I have felt so elevated by them for so many years that I just want them to feel the same,” she said.
Sarah Bunn, PTO President, Settler’s Point Elementary
Mrs. Sheila Rogers Uggetti Volunteer of the Year
Sarah Bunn became a volunteer with the Settler’s Point Elementary PTO about four years ago. She wanted to stay connected with her daughter’s school and offer her support in any way possible. Bunn eventually became part of the PTO’s board, and last year she became president of the organization.
“In the process of learning how I can better assist my children, I’ve learned areas in which I can also help the Gilbert Public Schools district,” Bunn said.
The district is a huge part of her family’s daily life from academics to social activities. Bunn says some of her closest friendships have even come from her connection to GPS.
“I have made friends for life with teachers and staff, and families as well,” she said.
Bunn works tirelessly to make sure teachers feel valued through initiatives like Coffee Moms and Teacher Appreciation Week. As a parent, Bunn believes investing time in your child’s school will make all the difference.
“Supporting each other is where we are going to be fulfilled. We should be able to lift each other and be positive influences in each other’s lives,” she said.
Bunn is being honored as the Mrs. Sheila Rogers Uggetti Volunteer of the Year at the 25th Annual Gilbert Community Excellence Awards. Bunn says she is completely blown away by the award.
“I feel like I’ve gained a family. This kind of confirms to me that I’ve built those meaningful relationships. It’s very thoughtful and considerate,” she said.
When Bunn looks back on her time with the Settler’s Point Elementary PTO, she has many fond memories over the years. She says the experience has been great all around.
“Just all these different fundraisers and being involved in building the community along the way has been the most joyful portion of the time spent,” Bunn said, “Each relationship and each little interaction has contributed to making the entire journey beautiful.”