GHAPS employee among frontline workers recognized for going above and beyond

Read the Spanish version of this story in El Vocero.

Abby Teasley likes her job with Grand Haven Area Public Schools because she’s making a difference.

As a migrant recruiter and home liaison with the district, her role is to assist students so they are successful. Often, that means helping their families as well.

“My main job is to break any barriers, not just only for our students but for our families, whatever their needs might be. Sometimes it’s food, sometimes it’s connecting them with a different agency, and sometimes it's just something as simple as filling out paperwork for school and making sure they're understanding what they're signing. I enjoy that part, too, because I get to meet people from all over,” says Teasley.

She was one of 10 frontline workers recently honored by West Michigan Works! with Beverly A. Drake Essential Service Awards for 2021. 

Integrity, passion, and commitment

Honorees were recognized at The Economic Club of Grand Rapids’ February meeting and presented with a $100 Meijer gift card. The Essential Service Awards recognize frontline workers who go above and beyond their daily responsibilities and display integrity, passion, and commitment.    

“Whether they’re working in customer-facing positions or behind the scenes, these extraordinary, dedicated essential workers are critical to the success of their organizations,” says Mark Bergsma, chair of the West Michigan Works! Workforce Development Board. “The past two years have demonstrated just how vital frontline workers are and how important it is to recognize them for the impact they have in our community and the significant role they play in our local economy.”  

In addition to Teasley, other 2021 Essential Service Award honorees are:
  • Kylie Anderson, child care teacher, AppleTree Early Care and Preschool — Hudsonville
  • Nicia Coleman, inspector, Embassy Suites Grand Rapids Downtown
  • John Hidalgo, maintenance technician, American Chemical Solutions — Muskegon
  • Donna Houseman, registered dental assistant, My Community Dental Center
  • Kathryn Koski, clerk III, Kent County Prosecutor's Office.
  • Lyndsey Prentice, front desk champion, Courtyard by Marriott Holland Downtown
  • Rebeca Sastre, food service assistant, Wedgwood Christian Services
  • Linda Vis, food transportation driver, Jenison Hudsonville Food Service
  • Jim Whalen, appliance buyer, Bekins

Teasley, who is bilingual, grew up with a mom who spoke only Spanish so she often was the family translator. 

“It obviously made me the person that I am today. I think it's important, too, that such big responsibility doesn't fall into the lap of our students, and that's where I can step in and help the parents and really empower them to get involved in school and know what's going on in their student's school day.”

‘Never lets anybody down’

She was nominated for the award by Mary Jane Evink, GHAPS executive director of instructional services.

“Nominating Abby Teasley for this award was an easy decision. She is an essential worker for Grand Haven Area Public Schools and goes above and beyond every day, and everything that she does exceeds our expectations,” says Evink.

Abby Teasley is one of 10 frontline workers recently honored by West Michigan Works!

In her role, Teasley is responsible for checking on the families of the students in her program to make sure that they have what they need, whether that’s groceries, vaccinations, or eye exams.

“If students need rides to go to these appointments, she's there to make it happen. If there's a problem at school with a teacher or a misunderstanding, she's the liaison that smooths it out. Abby is always advocating for the students and their success,” says Evink.

When the school district was forced to go to virtual learning, Teasley ensured that all of the families had a cable connection and devices. She also helped pick out books for students to read at home that matched their level and their interests. 

“Abby is not only reliable in her job, but she is committed to the success of her students and families. It’s not just that she shows up every day, it’s that she shows up with spirit and intensity to make sure that people are successful. It’s an internal intensity. She's a warm, compassionate human being who never lets anybody down,” says Evink.

Award eligibility

To be eligible for an Essential Service Award, individuals must have at least two years of employment with their current company; hold a non-managerial position; and exhibit pride in their job, a positive attitude, strong work ethic, and effective time management. 

Additionally, the nominee must work within the West Michigan Works! service area of Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon, and Ottawa counties. Winners are chosen by a committee of the West Michigan Works! Workforce Development Board.   

Essential Service Awards categories include administrative/office worker, cleaning/housekeeping/groundskeeping, child care, food service, government, health care/elder care, hospitality, nonprofit, retail, skilled labor, and transportation. Learn more at

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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.