HeJin Lee, a fifth grade teacher at Mount Carmel School, was recognized this week as the school’s Teacher of the Year, while Marlon Villafuerte, the school’s maintenance supervisor, was declared 2017 Support Staff of the Year.
The runner up for the TOY was science teacher Luz Baldazo. The awards were presented by Bishop Ryan P. Jimenez and school officials this past Tuesday during the school’s annual Faculty/Staff Appreciation Program held as part of the weeklong Catholic Schools Week.
Lee was shocked over the award. As she put it, “I still cannot believe it.”
When asked why she was in disbelief, she said, “I still have a lot of room for growth, so I am very humbled. …This motivates me to work harder to become a better teacher.”
Lee attributes her success to the support of her family, her teachers, and her colleagues. “My family has always supported me in whatever I do, even if means being away from them.”
Originally from South Korea, Lee has lived on Saipan for several years now while her family remains in Korea.
Regarding her teachers, Lee recognized her instructors at Northern Marianas College: Velma Deleon Guerrero, Charlotte Cepeda, and Amanda Diaz. She also recognized her fellow teacher at the school who, she said, “I can always depend on.”
Three years ago, after earning her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Northern Marianas College, Lee started teaching at the school. Since then, she has continued her education by completing various educational technology and literacy courses.
For his part, Marlon Villafuerte was recognized for his invaluable contributions to the school. School president, Galvin Deleon Guerrero was especially thankful for his service.
“With a good heart, he helps in many ways, from repairing air conditioners, keeping our campus safe and clean, to setting up for various school events,” Deleon Guerrero said. “Our school thrives because of his unsung support.”
Villafuerte and Lee were not the only ones recognized at the program. Joseph Taijeron and Social Studies teacher Rosiky Camacho were also granted honorary diplomas, declaring them AlumKnights for their 12 years of service at the school.
Camacho is a lifelong teacher who once also served as a representative at the CNMI House of Representatives.
Taijeron has coached mock trial and volleyball and served as the chairman of the school’s board of drectors for four years. Under Taijeron’s leadership, the school reversed a decade of enrollment decline, going from about 250 students to a current enrollment of over 500, improved its financial situation, raised scores on standardized tests, and switched to a new accreditation model.
On top of that, Taijeron led the school board to give faculty and staff the first significant salary increase in over a decade. (MCS)