BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) – At Tommy Smith Elementary, Gretchen Ortiz’s focus is keeping things tidy and clean.
But those who work with her will tell you Ortiz helps out in so many different ways.
“She just always has a smile, always there to say good morning, good afternoon, how was your day,” said Dana Kwarteng.
Tommy Smith Elementary Second Grade Teacher Dana Kwarteng nominated Ortiz. She said Ortiz is always the first to offer to help out around campus. For example, she assists with their holiday luncheons for students and their families and helped decorate the Christmas tree in the front office.
“She was just now putting this amazing bow on our Christmas tree in the front office and it’s beautiful,” said Kwarteng. “He was already telling me she’d help me make a Grinch tree next year.”
But Ortiz was especially helpful during Hispanic Heritage Month when Kwarteng was teaching a lesson using words in Spanish.
“Since I don’t speak Spanish and I don’t have the accent, she said them,” said Kwarteng. “She said what they [the words] meant. It was really enjoyable for my kids.”
Ortiz is from Puerto Rico and Spanish is her first language. She said she loved the opportunity to share her culture with Kwarteng’s class.
She was brought to tears last week when she learned Ms. Kwarteng nominated her. She easily got choked up when talking about her love for this job and working with staff she calls family. She said she is blessed.
“I feel so happy that I know I have many people [that] appreciate what I do in here every day,” said Ortiz.
She said work doesn’t feel like work at Tommy Smith Elementary and on her days off, she misses it.
“I enjoy the time here. The hours pass so fast,” said Ortiz.