Lexington-Richland School District Five has named finalists for its 2023-2024 Support Employee of the Year award. The finalists are: Elizabeth Balog, a school social worker at Harbison West Elementary School; Clare Steele, a teacher assistant at Lake Murray Elementary School; and Tiffany Ulmer, a school social worker at the Academy For Success.
Balog joined School District Five 2 years ago. Prior to joining the district, she worked as a multidimensional family therapist
As a school social worker, Balog enjoys helping people the most. “Without a doubt, the most important part of my job is serving as a support for students, families, and staff,” Balog said. “In school social work, support can look like a lot of different things. Support can be emotional. It can be a counseling session with a student navigating the emotions that come along with the death of a friend or loved one. It can look like a small group with students who are struggling with anger or whose parents are dealing with a serious illness. It can be a brief check-in, a reminder that “you can do it’, “I believe in you”, or “I am so proud of you!”. With our caregivers it can look like an hour (or two hour) long phone call with a parent who doesn’t know where else to turn and needs to
talk to someone. It can look like a resource list and reassurance that “you aren’t alone, there’s a program/organization/group to help with that”. With our staff it can be a listening ear, reassurance that “you did handle that appropriately”, advice on managing a behavior in the classroom, or a tip on navigating a challenging conversation with a parent.”
Steele has been with School District Five for a year as a teaching assistant where she works with eight different math or reading groups for 30 minutes each day. Prior to her employment in School District Five, she was a substitute teacher from 2017-2021.
Steele says she loves all aspects of her job and looks forward to coming to work every day in order to assist students and teachers. “Instructional assistants are an invaluable asset to School District Five,” Steele said. “Coming alongside classroom teachers to offer support so they can maximize instructional time gives students even more of a chance to be successful. Teachers have countless demands throughout the school week, and I love nothing more than serving them by taking something “off their plate” so they can focus on their students.”
Ulmer has worked in School District Five for a year and a half. Prior to joining the district, Ulmer worked at the South Carolina Department of Mental Health and Wil Lou Gray Opportunity School.
Ulmer enjoys being able to interact with so many students, as well as their families on a regular basis. “The most significant reward I find in my job as a school social worker is being able to watch a student transition from a troubling area of their life and being able to blossom into something magnificent,” Ulmer said. “Some people choose their profession based on monetary compensation. However, my passion for being a social worker and the rewards of impacting my students and their families is a blessing. Being able to help the students and their families will reward me in other ways that money can’t buy. Ultimately, being a part of my student’s educational journey fills my bucket daily.”
Support Employee of the Year winners from each school include: Tiffany Ulmer (Academy For Success), Rebecca Imholte (Adult Education), Chele Alexander (Ballentine Elementary), Nicole Flowers (Center for Advanced Technical Studies), Wendy Hanna (Chapin Elementary), Anita Behreandt (Chapin High), Judy Deans (Chapin Intermediate), Michelle Crump (Chapin Middle), Stella Bozard (CrossRoads Intermediate), Claudia Zeigler (District Office), Vernadette Tolson (Dutch Fork Elementary), Willette Wise (Dutch Fork High), Candace Ruffin (Dutch Fork Middle), Karen Mejia (FIVE), Candace Peterson (H. E. Corley Elementary), Elizabeth Balog (Harbison West Elementary), Mitchell Cooper (Irmo Elementary), Shay Robin (Irmo High), Jeffrey Tharp (Irmo Middle), Clare Steele (Lake Murray Elementary), Mary Ann Carter (Leaphart Elementary), Andrea Steed (Nursery Road Elementary), Robin Counts (Oak Pointe Elementary), Rebecca Gable (Piney Woods Elementary), Gary Chudd (River Springs Elementary), Heather Grooms (Seven Oaks Elementary), Sally Tucker (Spring Hill High), Delbert Bowers (Transportation).
Superintendent Akil E. Ross, Sr. said, “Congratulations to our Support Employee of the Year finalists and those who were selected by their peers to represent their school in our district! These individuals are an important part of School District Five’s mission to “love and grow our students.” Thank you for doing your part in helping our district and students thrive each and every day.”