‘Proud of what I do’: Preschool teacher honored for going above and beyond

Beatrice Salgado, a preschool teacher at the Early Learning Center in Grand Rapids, goes above and beyond for the children in her care. 

One example of that commitment is the extra support she provided to a refugee child and her family, says her boss, Early Learning Center site director Jennifer Barlage.

"The little girl had quite a bit of trauma and separation anxiety. She was struggling with moving to another country, starting a school and speaking a new language," says Barlage. "Beatrice just took that whole family under her arms. She helped the child feel safe and welcome at school, connected the family with her friends so they could secure stable housing, helped the mom look into potential schooling, and got the staff together so that we could help give them a Christmas."

Salgado is among 10 West Michigan frontline workers who received the 2023 Beverly A. Drake Essential Service Awards. They were recognized at the The Economic Club of Grand Rapids meeting on Feb. 5 and each presented with a $100 gift card. 

The Essential Service Awards recognize frontline workers like Salgado who go beyond their daily responsibilities and display integrity, passion and commitment.   

“I want to be that special person who children can form relationships with and feel safe around,” says Salgado. "Winning an essential service award means that my work doesn't go unnoticed and makes me feel proud of what I do.”

The other 2023 Essential Service Award honorees are Kristie Azzoli, customer experience specialist at The Rapid ITP; Heidi Carpenter, program aide at Barry County Commission on Aging; Scott Kinyon, cleaning at Aggressive Tooling Inc.; Marolyn Lopez, corporate receptionist at Plascore; Kim Pitsch, park ranger for Allegan County; Derek Ryan, courtesy team member at Meijer; Denver Sincler, a beer tender at Allegan's Tantrick Brewing Co.; Maria Solis, senior quality assurance specialist at Trans-Matic; and Darcie Wallace, care coordinator at Meals on Wheels Western Michigan.

‘Dedication and perseverance’
"While we have always valued the contributions of frontline workers, the current economic climate, marked by rising inflation and cost of living pressures, makes this year's Essential Service Awards even more pertinent," says Mark Bergsma, West Michigan Works! workforce development board member. "Honoring frontline workers' dedication and perseverance remains crucial as many continue to navigate uncertain economic waters while serving our community."

West Michigan Works! is a governmental agency that provides employment and training programs and services for employers, employees, and job seekers in Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon and Ottawa counties, focusing on building a more skilled and diverse workforce that will drive economic growth and opportunity. 

Winners are chosen by a committee of the West Michigan Works! Workforce Development Board.  

Essential Service Awards categories include administrative/office worker, cleaning/housekeeping/groundskeeping, child care, food service, government, health care/elder care, hospitality, nonprofit, retail, skilled labor, and transportation.

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