Tammy Wetzel is WS Schools Employee of the Year

Tammy Wetzel, Wessington Springs Schools Head Cook is shown above in the elementary school kitchen preparing menus for the upcoming school year. Wetzel was named the school district’s 2021 Employee of the Year. 

Keeping students fed during a pandemic riddled with food shortages and staffing challenges while maintaining federal nutritional guidelines earned Tammy Wetzel the esteemed nomination for Wessington Springs Schools Employee of the year.   

The Wessington Springs School District announced that, new this year, it sought nominations  for Employee of the Year. Parents, students, staff and community members were invited to recommend an employee for hard work and dedication to the district. 

“The employees are the backbone of the Wessington Springs educational system. Non-teaching staff have a great impact on the education of a Wessington Springs learning environment,” stated the nomination form. “This is an opportunity to nominate a staff member from all areas of the Wessington Springs School District.” 

Comments from Wetzel’s nominations point to the deep level of care she takes when it comes to keeping students nourished:

“Tammy cares deeply for the students and staff at Wessington Springs School District. Last spring, she stepped up to the challenging role of keeping students fed during a pandemic. 

“Tammy kept on filling the important role of keeping students cared for during this past year. She dealt with food shortages while staying within the federal guidelines.” 

“Tammy takes careful consideration of individual student needs and treats each person with respect. She works closely with the state department to be involved with provided programs. She carefully adheres to administrative duties to make sure that Wessington Springs School District is in compliance.” 

“Tammy Wetzel is a committed member of the Wessington Springs Staff. She certainly deserves this honor.”

“This is pretty cool, it’s an honor,” Wetzel said of being named the school district Employee of the Year. “Community-wise, the pandemic was pretty tragic, the isolation for the kids was pretty awful — well actually, in reality it was awful for all of us.”  

Wetzel said that in addition to food shortages, challenges included staffing shortages due to people being exposed to Covid and needing to enter quarantine. 

“We didn’t even have subs because at that time we weren’t letting anyone but staff in the kitchen. Thankfully Dr. Pittman was able to come in and help me serve,” she recalled.  “You don’t realize how quickly you can go from being fully-staffed to non-staffed. Kitchen staff would be in the middle of cooking with food in the oven and all of a sudden they get a call that they were exposed to Covid and had to be gone for two weeks." 

At that time, Wetzel was preparing 360 to-go meals, 180 meals for both breakfast and lunch.

“We sent all five days worth of meals and would come in and assembly line it with volunteers and teachers coming in,”she said. “It was great to see others once a week to do it that couple hours once a week. 

Wetzel has been with the school district for six years, serving as Head Cook for four. While she is grateful for receiving the award, Wetzel is quick to credit her staff.

“My staff showed up all the time — they didn’t have to — and it was really cool that they did,” she reflects. “All of the administration showed up and all of the kids got taken care of and appreciated it.”