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Columbia votes for McDaniels as top staffer

Deb McDaniels works in the front office at Columbia Elementary School. (CONTRIBUTED)
Deb McDaniels works in the front office at Columbia Elementary School. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Columbia Elementary School has selected Deb McDaniels as Staff Member of the Year.

McDaniels has worked in Columbia’s front office for the past seven years. “The office staff works together as a team. Our number one priority is the safety of our children,” she said.

Providing a welcoming atmosphere to all Columbia visitors is an important aspect of her job. “Columbia has such wonderful volunteers. It’s so critical to formulate a positive relationship with our parents,” McDaniels said.

In addition, McDaniels monitors other locations in school, like classrooms and lunchroom duty, to allow teachers to attend meetings.

“It has been such a joy to watch our students grow in every sense of the word. Our most recent sixth-grade graduating class was in kindergarten when I began working at Columbia,” she said.

McDaniels realizes “a kind word can make a student’s day.” She remembers one student who had both academic and behavioral challenges, yet had great skill at drawing. “I mentioned that I saw his amazing work at an art show at Bob Jones High School, and his face just lit up,” she said.

Severe weather days can be chaotic in a school’s front office. “When bad weather is predicted, I know to put on my running shoes. At the end of the day, there is nothing better than to see a child smile and say, ‘Have a good day, Mrs. McDaniels,'” she said.

McDaniels earned a bachelor’s degree in social work at Millersville (Penn.) State College.

Her husband Lloyd retired after 28 years in the U.S. Army. “We decided to make Alabama our permanent home,” she said. They have lived in Germany, Georgia, Kansas, Texas, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Their son Ryan, 28, works at Clearview Cancer Institute. “Ryan has an amazing son, not that I’m prejudiced. Alex is four years old,” she said. Daughter Erin, 22, recently graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a degree in vocal performance. Morgan, 17, is a senior at James Clemens High School.

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