Michael Helton (Dawson Elementary School) and Meredith Bippen (Rodgers Middle School) have been selected as finalists for the 2021 Instructional Support Employee of the Year award.

A celebratory ‘Surprise Patrol’ visited Dawson Elementary and Rodgers Middle Schools to recognize two finalists for Instructional Support Employee of the Year, an award honoring educational support personnel for contributions they make to their schools.

Paraeducators, custodians, secretaries, nutritional staff, bus drivers and aides were eligible for the contest, which recognizes outstanding service by school employees who provide direct or indirect services to students and their families.

The surprise patrol was made up of representatives from Hillsborough Education Foundation, Hillsborough County Public Schools, presenting sponsors Suncoast Credit Union, Caspers Company McDonald’s Restaurants and Amscot.

The finalists include: Lynn Jones (Mitchell Elementary School ESE paraprofessional), Michael Helton (Dawson Elementary School Nutrition Services manager) and Meredith Bippen (Rodgers Middle School secretary).

Bippen was taken aback when the prize patrol walked into her office, with cowbells jingling and congratulatory exclamations.

I had no idea I was going to get one of the finalist spots,” she said.

Bippen was the school’s PTA President before getting hired as its secretary.

“The former secretary was retiring and she told me I would be perfect for the job,” said Bippen, who interviewed for the job and quickly received an offer of employment.

She has been a school secretary for two years.

The teachers and staff at the school nominated her for Instructional Support Employee of the Year. She is still the school’s PTA president, even though she no longer has a student attending the school.

“I am so passionate for this school, its teachers and our students,” she said. “This school is such a great place to work and helps keep life interesting.”

It’s no wonder she received the nod from her peers.

The District’s Instructional Support Employee of the Year will be announced at the Excellence in Education Awards ceremony, which will take place virtually on Thursday, January 21. The Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator of the Year and Teacher of the Year will also be announced.

For more information about HEF’s Excellence in Education Awards, visit www.EducationFoundation.com.