Zeiger parent is honored as 2015 Volunteer of the Year
Zeiger parent is honored as 2015 Volunteer of the Year
Posted on 06/10/2015

Her smile and reassuring voice calm even the most nervous of students who miss the morning school bell and must report to the late arrival desk before going to class


A cheerful “good morning” and a listening ear are sometimes all it takes, she said, for a student to get a positive start to their school day after missing the bus, taking too long to eat breakfast, or oversleeping because “my cat kept me up all night.”


Zeiger Elementary parent volunteer Becky Okemoto-Davis welcomes students three mornings a week at the late arrival desk, fills out their tardy slips, and records whether or not they are buying hot lunch that day.


“It’s always fun hearing what they have to say,” she said. “I love doing this because I get to talk with the students and often their parents too.”


Her help at the late arrival desk is but one example of the countless ways Okemoto-Davis supports Zeiger Elementary students, parents, and staff. In fact, it’s rare that a day passes without her volunteering somewhere on campus, said Principal Cari Ake.


Of the more than 5,550 volunteers serving throughout the Puyallup School District this year, Okemoto-Davis recently learned she has been selected as the 2014-15 Volunteer of the Year. The district awards the annual honor to someone who has given exceptional service to children.


“Becky goes above and beyond,” Assistant Principal Angelo Mills wrote in his nomination letter. “She is here whenever Zeiger needs a hand. Becky always serves with a smile and is willing to do the task to its completion. She is an integral part of our Zeiger community/family.”


Okemoto-Davis learned about the award during a surprise announcement at a morning staff meeting earlier this spring. She wiped away tears of happiness as both Ake and Superintendent Tim Yeomans thanked her for her contributions.


Many of the Zeiger Elementary staff members also cheered for her this spring when she was formally honored at a Puyallup School Board meeting. Ake presented Okemoto-Davis with an engraved plaque, she shook hands with the school board members, and the audience responded with a standing ovation.

Okemoto-Davis has been volunteering at Zeiger Elementary since her daughter, Fiona Hall, enrolled three years ago. Hall is in fourth grade this year in Kayla Alston’s QUEST program for highly capable students.


“I cannot say enough good things about Becky,” Alston said. “I have been lucky enough to have her as a parent volunteer in my classroom for the past two years. I have even called her at home in a bind to ask for help on short notice, and she arrives within the hour.”


Among her many duties, Okemoto-Davis supports her daughter’s class by teaching monthly art lessons, creating bulletin board letters, helping with classroom events or grading papers, chaperoning field trips, and organizing PTA-sponsored gift baskets.


She also supports the entire school by delivering popcorn to students who have purchased the snack on Fridays, making copies for teachers, counting money from school PTA-sponsored events, helping students find books at the Scholastic Book Fair, and serving as the school liaison for the districtwide ABC parent organization for the QUEST program.


This year, Okemoto- Davis also served as secretary on the school PTA board, coordinated last month’s Staff Appreciation Week, and chaired the annual PTA Reflections art program and reading night.


“I am really passionate about reading,” she said. “It’s so important in a child’s life.”


Parent and PTA representative Shawna Mac Donnell, who coordinates the school volunteers, often works alongside Okemoto- Davis at the late arrival desk and at school events.


“You can always count on her for anything,” Mac Donnell said. “She is the first one to volunteer. I always tease her that she never says ‘no.’”


Second-grade teacher Jane Orme adds, “She gets here about the same time as me in the morning. I don’t know how she does it all. She is wonderful. She is so good with the kids.”


Okemoto-Davis said she loves working at the school because everyone is so welcoming, especially since she didn’t know anyone in Puyallup when her family moved here from Hawaii three years ago. Her husband is an active duty Army mechanic stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and the school has been “like family to me.”


The volunteer said she is appreciative that the teachers and other school staff members are so supportive of her bringing her 13-month-old daughter, Yuki, with her to school on the days she volunteers.


It’s a common sight to see the volunteer wheeling her daughter in the stroller down the halls, or having Yuki sitting on her lap, waving and smiling at students as they walk up to the late arrival desk.


Third grader Annabel Porter describes Okemoto-Davis as “very helpful and nice.” The student is one of many that Okemoto-Davis assisted recently at the spring “buy one, get one free” book fair.


As students made their final purchases at the cash register, Okemoto-Davis reminded them to put their money in their pockets. If one of them forgot to pick out a free book, she encouraged them to find one — if not for themselves, then for a brother or sister.


“I just love volunteering,” she said. “And it’s so important. In Hawaii I took a class on what it means to have a presence at your child’s school. It really does improve their success because they see that school is important enough for you to give your time.”