by Kate Evans
Holly Palmer, Paw Paw Schools cook III and cafeteria manager, was selected as one of 10 finalists for the West Virginia State School Service Personnel of the Year.
Palmer was chosen as the Morgan County Schools Service Personnel of the Year at the March 30 Morgan County School Board meeting.
Palmer has been a cook at Paw Paw Schools for 16 years and has been their cafeteria manager for 14 years. She started out as a substitute cook for the county, was assigned to Paw Paw Schools and has been there ever since.
Other finalists for the award are Deidra Burdette, custodian, Greenmont Elementary, Wood County; Julia Clayton, cafeteria manager, Glen Dale Elementary, Marshall County; Shelby Lucas, secretary, Explorer Academy, Cabell County; Donald McNeel, bus driver, Hillsboro Elementary, Pocahontas County; and Jody Miller, secretary, Ohio County Schools.
Additional finalists are Kathy Miller, cafeteria manager, Wayne High School, Wayne County; Heather Pindell, transportation supervisor, Jefferson County Schools; Allen Spangler, bus driver, Monroe County Schools; and Angela Trammell secretary, Ritchie County High School, Ritchie County.
The West Virginia School Service Personnel of the Year and Teacher of the Year will be announced on September 7 during a ceremony at the West Virginia Culture Center in Charleston.
Palmer said she was shocked when she learned that she was a finalist and felt honored to be chosen.
Palmer noted that she doesn’t do what she does for the glory -“I do it for the kids in my community.”
Palmer said when she looks back at her childhood that “there was always someone there as a positive influence for me.”
Palmer said when she was video-recorded in her finalist interview she was asked to talk about how she connects to and influences students and why she decided to serve.
Palmer said she loves working with children and loves cooking. Her grandmother was a cook at Hancock Elementary and her stories of working with kids always touched Palmer’s heart.
Palmer said she has an advantage because she gets kids in kindergarten and gets to watch them until graduation. Some children have siblings in school or she knows the parents.
“Being in the community itself helps you make that connection,” she said.
In sports as a coach she watched girls grow. If kids were upset about something she could break the ice and get them to talk to her and help.
Palmer loves their school and said they “are like one big family.”
Palmer’s responsibilities as cook and cafeteria manager include breakfast and lunch preparation, meal serving and managerial paperwork, which includes ordering food, production records and inventory.
Meals and dishes she’s known for are her soup, Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes — their number one hit — as well as pizza and apple crisp. She encourages kids to try new foods.
Palmer said for the last few years they’ve had the fresh fruit and veggie program at Paw Paw Schools. She introduces new ones a couple of times a week to students. Two new vegetables she served this year were rainbow carrots and jicama sticks.
Palmer said providing food service during the pandemic has been challenging but doable. Without her co-workers they wouldn’t have survived pandemic cooking, packaging meals and meal delivery.
Palmer was president of the Morgan County Schools Service Personnel Association for two years and also served as its vice-president for two years. She is still an active member.
Palmer is the head volleyball coach for the varsity and middle school at Paw Paw Schools and formerly coached girls’ basketball at the school. She has been coaching for 14 years. Palmer also created a middle school volleyball feeder program.
Palmer is also an advocate and volunteer for the Paw Paw Schools Athletic Boosters. Palmer said she joined the Athletic Boosters in 2010 and has held every seat-president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer. She was treasurer of the organization for 8 years. Palmer ran concessions and started fundraisers so their students could have uniforms.
Palmer served as a Paw Paw Town Council member for two years and has served as the secretary for the Paw Paw Volunteer Fire Department for over six months. Palmer’s Town Council term was up in June.
Palmer said she started on the Town Council because “I wanted to make a difference in our town and make it better for our community.”
Palmer first became a trained firefighter for the Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Company and then switched to being a firefighter for Paw Paw Volunteer Fire Company in 2006. Palmer said she does run some calls now but mostly helps on the outside at fires with water.
Palmer has given so much back to Paw Paw Schools and their students, Paw Paw Schools Principal Melinda Kasekamp said previously.
“She is dedicated to our school and to our students,” Kasekamp said.