by Lorie Lewis Ham
Here at Kings River Life Magazine, we realize how important teachers and other school employees are to the lives of our children and the future of our communities as they shape the leaders of tomorrow. Sadly, most of the best of them work long hours with little recognition or thanks. Our goal here is to take a moment to thank as many of these outstanding people as we can — the ones that make a difference.
From our “Exceeding Expectations” series;
profiles of those who go above and beyond:
Michelle Caban has been an Attendance Secretary at Reedley High School for five years, but has worked for the Kings Canyon Unified School District for eight. “I started as a sub for a teacher’s aide, and an EL (English Language) Tech working with students in their language assessment. I’ve also worked as a clerk typist at the Adult School and as an assistant to the KC Kids program. I saw an opening for the high school, applied, and have been enjoying it ever since.”
A typical day for Michelle starts with her favorite beverage, coffee, at 7:30 in the morning. At 8:00, she starts signing in kids that are tardy for school. Then it’s answering phones, signing kids out, lunch break, and then the final bell. “There isn’t a boring day ever!”
Her favorite part of the job is seeing all of the new freshman faces at the beginning of a new school year. Seeing a student fall, whether academically or personally, is the hardest thing, though she is proud when they manage to pick themselves back up. “The saddest/happiest part for me is seeing the seniors embark on their new lives out of high school. I get so excited for them.”
Born and raised in Dinuba, Michelle attended Lincoln Elementary School and Washington Intermediate. She graduated from Dinuba High School in 1985. From there she went to Reedley College where she majored in Child Development.
In 1991, she moved to Reedley after getting married but continued to move between Reedley, Dinuba, and Cutler until her kids started school around 1995 when they moved back to Reedley to stay. “I have also lived in San Diego twice, working as a nanny for my aunt. And I lived temporarily, in the suburbs of Chicago and worked as a Montessori Academy teacher.”
Michelle is the mother of four children: Twins Polly and Henry –age 19, currently enrolled as Art majors at Reedley College, and two younger ones who are Juniors at RHS: Roman 17 and Rosie 16. “These are in addition to my adopted children (at RHS) who call me Mama, Ama, Mama Caban, Moma, and Miss. These children range in age from 21 years old to the most recent students. I love them all to pieces and I feel badly if I cannot remember all the 1900 or so names, but it’s like I tell them ‘I’ll get it right before you graduate, I promise, or I’ll just call you George.’”
The students at RHS seem to respond well to the love and encouragement that Michelle has to offer them and it definitely affects the lives of many. “Ms. Caban is one of the nicest, people I have ever met,” said RHS Senior Stephanie Barnett. “Whenever I go into the office for anything she always greets me with a smile and a kind word. The school would not be the same place without her there.”
Erika Candelas graduated RHS last year and says Michelle was like a second mom. “If I ever need anyone to talk to I know I can go to her and she will not judge me the way other people would. I know that if I need a laugh, she’ll be the one to make me laugh. If I need that little extra boost of confidence or support, she will be there for me. I am lucky to know a strong, loving, accepting and hard-working woman like her.”
Now attending Fresno State, former RHS student Natalie Bachicha has known Michelle since middle school when she attended school with Michelle’s older son. “I got to know her better in high school and she always took an interest in her kids, which is what she always called us. If we were late or absent, she’d ask to make sure everything was okay. She is hard working, determined, kindhearted, and infectiously optimistic. She’s most certainly a role model to us all.”
After only five years at RHS, Michelle already has a Pirate scrapbook packed full of mementos and pictures that are all precious to her. Her intention is to stay at RHS for as long as they’ll keep her. “I retire in 12 years and nine months or so. All I know is that this is where I am supposed to be right now and I wouldn’t give it up for the world.”
RHS administration is happy to have her. “Mrs. Caban has built very positive and lasting relationships with both students and fellow staff members at the high school. In addition, she has been instrumental in promoting the Pirate Spirit at the high school,” stated Rodney Cisneros, RHS Principal.
Even when not at work, Michelle likes to keep herself busy with a long list of hobbies that include cooking, reading and crafts. She also proudly proclaims herself a nerd. “I Love the PBS channel, History channel and any documentary.”
Michelle can also be found at many school events. “She has more school spirit than anyone else on campus, students included,” shared Natalie. “I will never forget going to football games and seeing Mrs. Caban cheering and dancing to whatever song happened to be playing over the intercom.”