Palmer’s dedication earns her School Service Personnel of the Year honor

by Kate Evans

Paw Paw Schools cook and café manager Holly Palmer was chosen as the Morgan County Schools Service Personnel of the Year.  Her award was given at the March 30 Morgan County School Board meeting.

Palmer has been a cook at the school for 16 years and their café manager for 14 years.  She started out as a substitute cook for the county and got her foot in the door at Paw Paw Schools and has been there ever since.

The job

Palmer’s day starts at 6 a.m. with breakfast preparation.  At 8 a.m. kitchen staff starts prepping for lunches.  The day ends at 1 p.m. but Palmer stays an additional hour to do her café manager paperwork, which includes ordering food, production records and inventory.

Holly Palmer was named Morgan County Schools Service Personnel of the Year at the March 30 Morgan County School Board meeting. The annual award recognizes outstanding education support personnel for their dedication, skill and contributions to their school and community. Palmer received a rocking chair from Caperton Furniture Works for her award.
photo by Betsy Buser

The paperwork is a big job and Palmer said she’s grateful that they’re a small school.  Paw Paw Schools has three grade levels and she couldn’t imagine all that paperwork if they were a larger school.

Palmer said that she likes to cook.  Her favorite meals to make for students are Salisbury steak and pizza.

“If it’s pizza, they’re happy,” she said of the kids.

The one thing she really enjoys about her job is that she gets to see kids go from kindergarten through twelfth grade and watch all their changes.  Maybe they don’t like a certain food in the early years but later on it’s their favorite.

“I really enjoy working with kids,” Palmer said.

Other involvements

Palmer was president of the Morgan County Schools Service Personnel Association for two years and also served as its vice-president for two years.

Palmer is the head volleyball coach for the varsity and middle school at Paw Paw Schools.  She also used to coach girls’ basketball at the school.  Palmer has been coaching for 14 years.

Palmer has also served as a Paw Town Council member for almost two years and has served as the secretary for the Paw Volunteer Fire Department for around six months.

Palmer is grateful to receive the Service Personnel of the Year Award and was very shocked to have been chosen.

Palmer said she likes spending time with her two grandsons and that she and her husband Jeff Palmer enjoy riding motorcycles.

“We don’t know where we’re going — we just get up and go,” she said.

Palmer said she really loves their little school. They get to know kids on a one-to-one basis, more than is possible at a big school setting.

“We are like one big family,” Palmer said.

Paw Schools Principal Melinda Kasekamp said as cook and café manager Palmer must prepare for multiple variations and portions of the same meal daily to feed 13 grades — more than any other county school — which requires planning and organization.

Kasekamp said that this year has been most challenging for the food service program as it moved to meals in the classroom, preparation/delivery of meals to virtual students, meal delivery   during all-remote phases and in-school, virtual and remote delivery during  blended instruction.  Palmer managed it all with grace.

Palmer “makes the calls and sends the messages until every bag has left our school and is in a child’s home. She has on many occasions had to change hours for pick-up for folks, dropped food on doorsteps herself and organized the bus drivers to get the food into homes,” Kasekamp said.

Palmer has given so much back to their school and students with volleyball, Kasekamp said.  She has been the Head Volleyball varsity coach for many years   and created a middle school feeder program four years ago.

Palmer “volunteer coaches the middle school team to ensure she will have varsity players with skills in the years to come. Holly has taken the time to grow the volleyball program.  This past season was full of difficulties with COVID restrictions but she persevered with the team,” Kasekamp said.

Palmer’s job requires a very early start time, but she’s out late every evening with her coaching responsibilities and volunteer work for the boosters, Kasekamp noted.

“She is dedicated to our school and to our students,” Kasekamp said.