Gentlemen, start your engines!

The Rowland Unified School District recently recognized staff who revved up the district's performance during the past year.

Employee of the Year nominees and Golden Apple Award recipients were honored at the annual employee and community recognition dinner on May 16. This year's event was held at the SpeedZone in Industry.

While she may not race on the Nascar circuit, Susanna Halliday drives her staff at Killian Elementary to excellence. The dynamic educator was named Administrator of the Year.

In an interesting footnote, Halliday had been named the district's Teacher of the Year at Killian Elementary some 20 years ago.

"This district really cares about its staff and students, that's why I enjoy working here so much," said Halliday, who marks her 40th year with the district.

The selection committee noted "A sign of her excellent leadership is she is always there with that incredible smile, an open mind and is interested in what you have to say.

"Susanna loves kids, teachers, music and gardens not because it is her job, but because it is in her heart. Susanna is the best example of a caring administrator anyone could know."

Setting another racetrack record was Classified Employee of the Year Pamela Johnson. She's been the office assistant at Rowland Elementary School for 20 years.

"I was really surprised when I won the award," Johnson said.

The longtime employee

has spent 31 years with the district. Johnson said she has stayed because "this district is very supportive of staff, students and parents."

The selection committee said "She is always ready to pitch in to help in any way she can. Pam exemplifies the district core values as she works with staff, students, family members and the community. She is the first person you see when you enter the school office and she greets everyone with a smile."

Getting the checkered flag as Teacher of the Year is John Molla from Rowland High School. Molla grew up in the district, attending local schools.

"My mother says I told her that I would be a math teacher and baseball coach when I was in the second grade," Molla said.

And he did, coaching the freshman and varsity baseball teams at Rowland for many years.

He's also been very active in the math department, sitting on both district and school committees. School officials said Molla had been the "driving" force behind the implementation of applied algebra and geometry.

"It's sort of a bridge course for students having trouble with alegbra," Molla explained.

In addition to his regular teaching assignment, Molla also teaches the sixth grade Algebra 1 class. He has developed activities for the sixth grade students that challenges them beyond the state standards.

When asked his philosophy for teaching, Molla replied, "Be a positive influence on the students every single day. Ten years ago, a former counselor told me 'you might be the only positive influence in some of these kids' lives."

And for the past 12 years, Molla has tried to be a good role model for his students.

Golden Apple Awards were also awarded to community and staff members who have made a significant difference in the district.

Winners include:

June Au-Yeung - Parent at Rowland High School

Arlene Cardenas - Parent Academic Advisor at Hurley Elementary

Lydia Dzama - Teacher at La Seda Elementary

Fernando Mendez - Grandparent at Nogales High School

Sandy Miller - Community Member for Alvarado Intermediate School

Carol J. Perez - Industry Hills Expo Center

Laura Tovar - Music Teacher for Rowland Unified

Jean Tsao - Parent at Rowland High School

Mary Whitson - Teacher at Shelyn Elementary

(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2801