Focused on Flagler Schools

Lunch Lady Love

February 03, 2022 Flagler Schools Season 2 Episode 1
Focused on Flagler Schools
Lunch Lady Love
Show Notes Transcript

We sit down with the 2021-2022 Flagler Schools Employee of the Year, Judy Gallo. It's a great conversation with someone who says she's "just doing my job." We think you'll agree with us, she's doing a whole lot more than that!

Jason Wheeler:

Lunch Lady Love. It's a real thing. And our Employee of the Year embraces it. This is Focused on Flagler Schools and I'm Jason Wheeler, Community Information Specialist with Flagler Schools. We want to share the achievements and challenges facing our students, teachers and staff right here in Flagler County, Florida. So let's dive right in. We're joined by Judy Gallo. She's an area manager for Food Nutrition Services here in Flagler Schools. More importantly, though, she is our Employee of the Year for 2021 2022. And you laugh at that. And we'll get into that you've been with the district for what more than what, 18 years. What brought you to Flagler County in Flagler schools?

Judy Gallo:

Well, originally, I came to Flagler County, because I'm previously from New Jersey, and I just couldn't take the cold anymore. So wanted to move to Florida, my mom had already been down here. And she was in this area. And we thought it was a good place to bring up my children. So that's why we chose Palm Coast. And to...Long story short, basically, to get into school food service, I actually had my own business down here, and some health issues and few different things not to get into. They decided to give that I decided to give that up. And someone said, why don't you go work for the school, and you can be with your kids. And I happen to like food service. That's just that's it's just in my blood. And started out as a sub over in Bunnell Elementary and just continued my way from there.

Jason Wheeler:

Things have changed a little bit over those 18 years.

Judy Gallo:

Things have changed a lot. A real lot.

Jason Wheeler:

What's a day in the life of Judy Gallo like?

Judy Gallo:

Oof. Well, more recently, I guess, because it's ever changing? Yeah, it's, it's never really the same. A typical day is no, you may have your little schedule and say, Alright, I have this penciled in, I'm gonna do this. And, you know, nine times out of 10, that doesn't last 10 minutes, and then it's blowing up, right. And especially the last couple of years with COVID, obviously, and now the food chain supply issue. It's been tough. It's been it's been really tough. And having had employees out employees in the kitchens, so I have to go and cover in that school and then cover in this school and then trying to get it's it's been a little hectic.

Jason Wheeler:

Putting a lot of fires out.

Judy Gallo:

A lot of f un, basically, yes, that's it, putting fires out.

Jason Wheeler:

I was able, when putting together all the material for the release and everything after the evening of you, you were announce, I was able to see some of the comments that were written about you. I don't know if you've seen them or not. This is some of what your colleagues had to say. Judy always goes out of her way to help others and get the student fed. This year. Loma COVID, at the drop of a hat ran three different schools. Judy is always smiling and seemed happy to do her job. She was the reason I wanted to come to FPC as a powerful these are your colleagues when you hear that? What goes through your mind?

Judy Gallo:

Well, I hear no, it's I hear that. It's like I appreciate it. I you know, I love them all. I just didn't think I personally didn't think I was doing anything different. That's just the way I am. You know, it's just the way I am. And there's just so much going on right now. And the climate in this world. And it's not even just recently, that's just something that I've started to, through my life I said, instead of being mean and bitter, and it's just nice to be nice. Indeed. It's just nice to be nice, you know, you, you get things it just works better that way. And even with the students. You know, when I originally started was with the babies and the babies are cute, and they're still learning. But I did several years over at the high school. And people would say to me, Oh, those high schoolers they're this they're that whatever. And they're not they're really are not I mean you have a few little ones here and there. But the majority of them are very very respectful. And and even though you have like 280 pounds, six foot football player every once in a while they just need to have some which we call it lunch lady love they just come in and want a smile or a hello. And that's that's what I like to do.

Jason Wheeler:

Anytime I talk with one of our support employees, you know the importance of going above and beyond is is there because our support personnel they do more than just serve a meal or clean a hallway, drive a bus, mow a lawn. And I think it's important. We salute our teachers and employees of the year, we how we do things here in Flagler County. Because I think our support employees are just as important as our teachers when effecting change among our students. And I do want to a couple other comments off of this. And I'll ask your question afterwards, in your packet was written that there's a brother and sister in FPC, who you notice we're taking food off the shared table back when we had shared tables before COVID, you noticed this. And then you you dug deeper, he just didn't let it sit down, they were basically homeless, they were living in a motel. So you would take some of the food, put it away and have in a fridge, and they could pick it up within the day. So they had the the ability to be fed away from school, which is incredible. And then there's a story of Tyler who graduated FPC executive, my buddy. And it was said, you know, he was still come back trying to find a place and you have been able to coach him and work with him and mentor him. And he's now a sub with food services. Who does that? I mean, it's so easy just to clock in and clock out and say, shake your hand, I'm done for the day. But you don't. What makes you go that extra step that extra mile for these kids?

Judy Gallo:

It's really hard. Because again, like I said, I don't really feel that I'm just doing your job. I'm really just doing my job. But then again, I guess I would want somebody to treat my friends or my family the same way. I really don't know. It's just, it just comes natural. I guess that's just, that's just who I am.

Jason Wheeler:

And I think you guys see and hear a lot. Yes. Because I think in the in the cafeteria in the lunch room, or in the lunch line, folks tend to let their guard down a little bit and may say something or do something that they may not find their friends or whatever. So you guys are really the eyes and ears of the school. Is that fair to say?

Judy Gallo:

Yeah, pretty much. So yeah, we get a lot of students that will come in, and they want to come in and talk and not only just to myself, but to my other staff. They're very, very helpful as well. And in all the schools, you know, and that's something we I do try to foster with them and say, you know, we all have bad days. And we all have you guys but try to leave that at home. If you know if the kids are coming through the line, we need to try to give them that positive reinforcement a smile, because it's true. You hear sometimes it's sometimes it is the only smile or the only food that they do get. And it's it hurts me.

Jason Wheeler:

Yeah. Right. But when your name was called out a couple weeks ago, as our district employee of the year, talk us through what you were experiencing. And was it surreal is that they say my name.

Judy Gallo:

That's exactly what I said. I turned to my daughter and I said did they just say she's like how Mom Yeah, Mom Get up there. And it was like, Whoa, it was surreal. It was it was a big blur. And like I said, I I appreciate it. I'm so honored. But it was like why almost, you know.

Jason Wheeler:

I mean, why not?

Judy Gallo:

That's true. Why not? Exactly. No. Exactly. But I just for me at the moment. I'm like thinking like wow, you know, this is something else, you know, I'm then I'm really honored. I truly am honored. And it's I've gotten many emails from different people in different departments and saying "You really deserve this." And it's like...

Jason Wheeler:

And you got you got your children. You talked about your daughter a little, but what was their reaction? What has been the reaction over the last couple of weeks about...

Judy Gallo:

Oh, my family, they're all like, you know, they're all just thrilled to pieces, and they're like, Oh, Mom, you deserve it. You really do deserve it. And you know, it's it's, it's been nice. It's really been nice. And then there's all these, like I said, when you contacted me and said, We're gonna do a podcast, and then you need to speak I'm like, Oh my goodness. I said I feel like such a celebrity.

Jason Wheeler:

And now you're up for you know you're in represent Flagler Schools on the state level. Has that really hit just yet?

Judy Gallo:

No.

Jason Wheeler:

You're the one person representing all of our employees.

Judy Gallo:

I know.

Jason Wheeler:

You're it. No, no pressure at all whatsoever.

Judy Gallo:

None. I'm already thinking about the speech I got to make next year. I'm like, because when I first when they said when this was coming about and they said, I said I don't have to talk to why I don't have to make a speech, do I? And they're like, No. And then after the employee did, the district employee of the year came out and that Chuck Coates, who had won, he came up to me because you might have to make a speech next year.

Jason Wheeler:

You got a whole year to plan so it's no big deal. The last couple years they have been extremely challenging not only in Flagler Schools but across our community, across our state, across our country, across the world. What is your message to those who may be struggling right now, whether they are an employee or students or family, because you've, you've been on the frontlines, you've been able to go out and help feed beyond our campuses. What is your message to them? Because you are an upbeat person, you are smiling, you always...you're always on. But what do you tell them?

Judy Gallo:

Well,I tell, like, again, my staff or to try to be upbeat to try to be positive. I said, because if you continue with the negative feeling set, it's only gonna, like, bring you down. You know, sometimes if you sort of get into that little bit of a pity party, and I mean, we're all glad to have that every once in a while you have a bad day, you can have a bad day, but to try not to bring that and then I guess I just, I just happen to look for people, maybe not people necessarily working with me, talking with people and I just sort of get a sense of somebody needs a little something. A little kind word or a little bit of, you know, and that's just who I am. I don't necessarily do it. It's hard to explain it's really hard to explain, and the people will yet because I save bees I save, you know, they go "Oh, there she goes again, the bee person you know, I can't really I just if somebody is out there too. If I can get a message because there's a lot of kids out there struggling there's a lot of people out there struggling and you hear about the you know the rates of suicide and look at that Miss USA that just happened the other day beautiful girl, I'm it's like, reach out to somebody to try. I mean, see if you can find somebody to talk to I you know, it's it's just a sad state of affairs that people have gotten to that point. You know, I can't understand it. I just can't understand it. You know?

Jason Wheeler:

And you mentioned that before, but... lunch lady love, what is that?

Judy Gallo:

Lunch....basically, it's a smile. It's a kind word. It's, you know, just giving them the opportunity to speak to somebody. We have some of our ESE kids, you know, and they want to come in, we have one little boy, we call them Cocoa Puffs, because he loves Cocoa Puffs. And you're most people sometimes you just got to take a little bit of time, it doesn't take that long to say hello. To ask, you know, is everything okay? How's your food or whatever, and they will come to you. It's amazing how these kids will come to you. And you know, we just give them that little bit of love. That's all they need. And they go off and it's a good day.

Jason Wheeler:

Feed the belly, feed the brain, feed the soul.

Judy Gallo:

Exactly, exactly. That's what I tried to do.

Jason Wheeler:

These last few questions. I asked everybody who comes on this podcast. So here's a little curveball. What makes you sad?

Judy Gallo:

I guess one of the things that I'm going to put it right now that makes me sad is just there's just seems to be so much like hatred in the world. And it's like why? I mean, I we can have our differences we can have nobody says that we all have to believe we're do the same thing. But why? Why is this so much hate and it's it's kind of scary. And that makes me sad. It really does make me sad.

Jason Wheeler:

What makes you happy?

Judy Gallo:

Oh my goodness.What makes me happy, I'm my family, my friends. Sunsets, sunrises, flowers. I mean, it's you know, I try to find happiness in everything that I do. Even if it's just a little something. You know, it doesn't necessarily have to be that all I'm gonna win the lottery that's gonna make me happier. I'm gonna do this. I just try to find the positive and happiness in everything that I do. I try.

Jason Wheeler:

Judy Gallo, thank you for being such an inspiration to everybody and congratulations on being our Employee of the Year and Best of luck to you.

Judy Gallo:

Thank you

Jason Wheeler:

And we want to thank you for listening to Focus on Flagler Schools, a production of the Flagler County School District. New episodes are released every other Thursday. If you like what you hear, subscribe, and check out Flagler Schools at www.flaglershools.com or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We're there at Flagler Schools. Thanks for listening. And remember, let's keep Focused on Flagler Schools.