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Heroes of Vista 2024

On Friday, March 22nd, five Vista Unified School District employees will be honored as part of the annual “Heroes of Vista” award ceremony. The Awards, presented by the Vista Chamber of Commerce and The Vista Educational Foundation, spotlight a wide range of community members whose work and service make an impact in the community. 

The five recipients of the education awards are:

Arts Educator of the Year: Carol Jones of Mission Vista High School

Technology Educator of the Year: Rya Hege of T.H.E. Leadership Academy

Classified Person of the Year: Dave Shaputis of Bobier Elementary

Administrator of the Year: Emyr Rich of Vista Magnet Middle School

Health Care Person of the Year: Carol Oliver of Major General Raymond Murray High School

Each of the recipients is an integral part of their school community, providing invaluable service that improves the lives of students, staff, and families.

Oliver, the Health Tech/Attendance lead at Major General Raymond Murray High School sets the tone for students and staff alike as the first person that many see each day. 

Says Murray Principal Joel Miller, “Ms. Oliver is the smiling, friendly face that greets everyone who comes into MGM. She knows students and parents by their name, face, and story, and is always willing to help in any situation, which is why she is well deserving of this award. Ms. Oliver makes the MGM community better with each interaction she has, and we are lucky to have her.”

Oliver has been at General Murray for six years and with Vista Unified for 25 years. Of the award she says, “It's truly an honor to be named a Hero of Vista!  I'm incredibly proud to be part of the MGMHS team and live in the City of Vista.” Asked what she would like more people to know about Major General Murray High School she says, “MGMHS is a site where all are welcome. It offers nurturing support and a positive, small-town community vibe;  It's a resource for the community.”

For Emyr Rich, Assistant Principal of Vista Magnet Middle School, the honor showcases the accomplishments of the schools. “VUSD schools are the heart of the Vista community and we are entrusted to educate and inspire our youth. The hope is that they give back to the community that served them well. I am grateful that I have the privilege of being a VUSD servant leader who can positively impact and engage the future leaders of our world.”

Rich has been at VMMS for five years and is proud of the culture established at the school. “There is an incredible collaborative spirit and a strong sense of belonging that is instantly felt when you step onto campus. Every staff member is committed to setting high expectations and providing continuous support. We believe in every student.”

As for Rich’s impact on the school, VMMS Principal Steve Post says, Mrs. Rich is an integral part of our school community. She brings joy to our collective work and values the power of relationships in working with others. Mrs. Rich is a hero because she is committed to leading in a way that inspires others to be their best.”

Dave Shaputis is the Plant Lead at Bobier Elementary School and has been a fixture there for the past 18 years and is one of the most recognized staff members at the school. 

Says Principal Melanie Paliotti, “David Shaputis is a highly motivated, intelligent, and effective plant lead who holds the safety of students and staff as his highest priority. He continually provides extra effort to ensure his campus and the community's needs are met and teachers and students are supported.  He is a valued member of our team and Bobier would not be the same without him!”

Shaputis credits his father’s example for his exemplary work. “I'm still at a bit of loss for words about the "hero" part of all this. I'm honored that my peers feel that I deserve this recognition. My father had an exceptional work ethic. Maybe that brushed off onto me?  My father would advise, "Don't try to get by, just being an employee." 

He takes satisfaction in knowing that he has given his best each and every day. Asked what his favorite part of his job is he answers, “Going home knowing I have accomplished something. That being a listener, an advice giver, or providing assistance somehow.”

For Rya Hege, a teacher at T.H.E. Leadership Academy for 15+ years, the Heroes of Vista Award holds a deep connection to her roots in the community. “It is an honor to be recognized by the community I serve.  This is a community where my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents called home.  Growing up with a military father and living in many different places, Vista was always a home base. It is a privilege to give back to a community that has given so much to me and my family.  This award is truly meaningful.”

Hege’s Principal, Kim Morton, explains Hege’s extraordinary skills as an educator. “Rya Hege stands out as an innovative technology teacher because of her dynamic approach to integrating cutting-edge tools and concepts into the classroom. She consistently fosters a tech-savvy learning environment that not only engages students but also prepares them for the rapidly evolving digital world.”

Asked about a highlight of her job Hege replies, “The absolute best part of my job is when I don't have to do my job.  When students are making connections, teaching each other, and taking the learning from the classroom to a new level. This is when teaching is magic. Students using the tools they are given and making something new.  When a student is able to connect learning to their life and then share that learning with someone else is the best part of my job.”

Carol Jones, a theater teacher at Mission Vista High School and the Department Chair of Visual and Perforeming Arts, draws praise from her co-workers including Principal Jeremy Walden. Says Walden, “Carol personifies everything about the favorite teacher we all had in high school or the champion we wish we had in our corner.  She is passionate about arts education, and her resume and accomplishments reflect that. 

“More importantly, Carol is a Hero of Vista because she approaches every class and every student from a human-centered perspective; she recognizes talents and strengths in every individual, and she has an uncanny ability to unleash them in such a way that builds confidence, resilience, and a sense of pride and accomplishment for every student she puts on stage. Her impact on students past and present cannot be understated, and we are fortunate to have her in our community.”

Says Jones about the honor, “I feel honored to have been selected among my wonderful VUSD arts colleagues. I am especially happy that the theatre arts are being recognized because I believe that creating theatre fosters self-awareness and empathy, and has been transformational for many of the students I’ve had the pleasure of teaching and working with over the years.”

Jones was a founding member of the faculty at Mission Vista when the school opened in 2007 and has seen it grow and evolve while retaining its own identity. “Mission Vista started as a quirky little offshoot from VUSD’s sister high schools. We had a vision for a school where students and teachers could evolve together, providing excellent educational opportunities to students of Vista. 

“MVHS is a caring and innovative school, fueled by curiosity,  flexible and creative students, great teachers, and stellar administrators. Our programs, in particular our arts programs, are the beneficiaries of supportive families who always step up to help our students. I am ever grateful to the wonderful parents who come through every year in every conceivable way–they are generous with their time and talent, and we couldn’t have created our vibrant arts programs without them.”

About the Heroes of Vista Awards

When: Friday, March 22 from 4:00 - 7:00 PM at The Vistonian, 306 S. Santa Fe Ave

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