James Toohey

James Toohey

Vocational Coordinator
The Bay School, a May Center School for Autism and Developmental Disabilities
Santa Cruz, Calif.

Employee Spotlight Award Winner, June 2018

From Jim's nomination: For the last three years, Jim has served as our Vocational Coordinator, although he has been working at The Bay School for 10 years. He works with local businesses and agencies to match our students to jobs that fit their passions, interests, and strengths. In the time he has been our Vocational Coordinator, Jim has built the program from a few volunteer jobs, for a handful of students, to over 20 jobs, many of which are paid employment. Most notably, there is at least one student from every classroom who is either volunteering or working for pay in the community. 

Jim works actively with some of our most challenging students. While he is on campus, he not only works to support vocational programming, but also jumps in to help all the classrooms with physical management and staffing support. There have been several days where Jim had supported one of our youngest students during an "extinction burst." Without question, Jim was there to support that student and classroom, spending all day in and out of challenging situations. This is just one of the many examples of how Jim supports our school in ways that are above and beyond his assigned duties. 

His impact is seen in our community as well. Local business owners and employees have begun to develop relationships with our students and have learned a tremendous amount about the autism community. Through Jim’s advocacy, they have a newfound understanding and acceptance of individuals with developmental disabilities. These employers have begun to seek us out, requesting more of our students come work for them, praising their work ethic and contributions to their businesses. Our students now have a place to be and a direction to go, on the long journey into adulthood. 

Aside from the work that Jim does for our students, both at school and in the community, he has made a profound impact on our staff. He is continually coming up with morale-boosting activities and strategies for employee recognition on an organizational level. Jim actively works to seek out individual staff and genuinely thanks them for what they do. He makes us all feel valued, cared for and appreciated. When Jim walks into the room, students and staff alike light up because we know something positive is coming our way. There is no better person to have the spotlight shined on them for the outstanding work and contribution they have provided to our school and organization. He’s truly one of a kind, with a big heart and a lot to give. 

"The thing I love the most about my job is providing opportunities for our students to succeed in the community. I feel like we challenge our students consistently – it is such a great feeling to see our students meet those challenges and flourish in new surroundings. The teamwork we have created both within the school and with our community partners makes doing my job incredible rewarding.

I love the fact that I have been able to be a part of so many life-changing experiences for our students (first community trips, first volunteer experiences, first paid jobs) – that is incredible motivation to keep pushing forward in creating new opportunities.

Through being involved in the community, we have been able to add in experiences for our students like attending performances by the Santa Cruz Symphony, local plays and having visits from a local high school band. To be able to participate in widening our students’ world is truly an honor.

Winning the award feels like a great recognition of everything The Bay School has done to create an environment where our students have meaningful opportunities to go out in the community for paid work and volunteer placements that both enrich their lives and contribute to the Santa Cruz community at large. I love that our network of contacts is growing and we are finding work through recommendations of some of our current employers. I definitely am grateful to Andrea Gold for all her work in creating the position of Vocational Coordinator, Laura Noland for helping me figure out all that it entails and Stephanie Iwanciow for encouraging me to follow through when I came up with the idea for this position." 
— Jim
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