Central Lee honors staff at annual awards

Yvette Howell was named Teacher of the Year in the Central Lee Community School District this week.

Howell named teacher of the year for 2021-22 school year

DONNELLSON — The Central Lee Community School District recognized several of its teachers and staff members during its 2021-22 Annual Awards.

Earning Teacher of the Year honors was Yvette Howell, who teaches first grade at Central Lee Elementary School. She is known for her commitment to continuously improving to enhance student learning. Mrs. Howell is a quiet, humble teacher leader who puts in countless hours planning and implementing the curriculum for her students. The tagline for her winning the award this year was, “Be humble, be teachable, and always keep learning.”

Wes McGraw was named Newcomer of the Year. Hired prior to the 2021-22 school year as Central Lee’s activities director and high school athletic conditioning teacher, he has worked to improve the athletic department, develop coaches and build relationships with district stakeholders. Mr. McGraw has been a strong advocate for athletics while also promoting the importance of all activities and academics for students at Central Lee High School. 

The district also recognized three Employees of the Year: Wendy Buford, Lauren Steffensmeier, and Pam Ball.

Buford has been a high school classroom associate for many years, serving in a variety of roles. She is known for being reliable, trustworthy and always acting in students’ best interests. Mrs. Buford was a staple for morning and afternoon bus/parking lot duty. She has been a highly respected staff member and can often be found supporting students in their activities. She is retiring at the end of the school year. 

Ball was awarded Bus Driver of the Year in the employee awards category. She has been a positive fixture in the Central Lee transportation department for more than 30 years, holding a regular AM/PM route while also driving countless activity trips over the years. Numerous coaches and athletes can tell heartwarming stories of her service and spirit while driving trips and supporting teams at their events. Mrs. Ball is also retiring at the end of the school year. 

Finally, Steffensmeier was awarded Employee of the Year in the non-instructional category. She serves as the middle school secretary and morning dispatch for the transportation department. She is well known for her cheery personality and the humor she brings to her work. Known as the person who “runs the middle school,” Ms. Steffensmeier is detail-oriented and works hard to ensure each day runs smoothly. She is also admired for organizing staff orders through Riverside Nutrition. 

“I am truly honored to work alongside these great educators. Regardless of your role at Central Lee, we know that every person who works in this district is an educator and has a positive influence on our students. These award winners have stood out among the best in making a positive difference for students,” said Dr. Andy Crozier, superintendent.

“I want to offer my sincere thanks and congratulations to each of our honorees. It is due to your tremendous work—and the work of all our staff members—that we continue to provide outstanding learning opportunities. Our staff remains the number one reason why our students and families choose Central Lee.” 

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