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Car came at the right time for Kia award winner

Omer Salazar, W.A. Bess Elementary School - 2013 Kia Outstanding Educator Award winner

New car came at the right time for Kia Outstanding Educator
It’s been almost a year since Omer Salazar won a new car, but he is still amazed that he heard his name called at last November’s Kia Outstanding Educator Awards.
“I always say it’s my blessing to have the car,” Salazar said. “It was unbelievable.”

The custodian at W.A. Bess Elementary School was one of 57 Gaston County Schools employees nominated last year to win a 2013 Kia Optima from Kia of Gastonia. The dealership will give away another car on November 19 during the second annual Kia Outstanding Educator Awards program.
When Salazar was picked as the winner, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
In addition to his part-time work at Bess, Salazar is employed as an anesthesia technician at CaroMont and runs his own lawn care service on the weekends. But last fall, he lost his transportation when another driver hit and totaled his Isuzu Rodeo.
Salazar ended up paying for a rental car with his credit card, struggling to get payments from his insurance company and worrying about how he could afford it. Then came the awards ceremony.
“It’s amazing,” Salazar said, explaining that he also received his U.S. citizenship not long after winning the Kia. “Two good things coming into my life at one time.”
Salazar, who is originally from Costa Rica, has worked at Bess for the last seven years and says he loves his job. “The teachers, the staff and the principal are so nice,” he said.

Salazar’s care for the children is evident, said principal Laura Dixon, explaining that most students know his name even though he doesn’t come in to work until the end of the school day.

“It speaks volumes that our faculty would choose him, a part-time employee, as our representative for the Kia Outstanding Educator Award,” she said. “There’s not anyone more deserving. He takes care of us and the students every single day.”

Salazar said his motivation is simple: “God gives you love; you have to give love. It’s not your own.”
Salazar said he is still surprised that Kia of Gastonia would give him such a nice car. He calls the Optima his “baby” and praises its safety features and good gas mileage. He plans to attend the Kia ceremony to support this year’s W.A. Bess award nominee, media specialist Julie Shatterly.

He also hopes to personally express his appreciation to Kia of Gastonia president Chris Hafer. “I want to shake his hand and say ‘thank you,’” he said.
IN THE PICTURE: W.A. Bess Elementary custodian Omer Salazar and principal Laura Dixon stand in front of the 2013 Kia Optima from Kia of Gastonia that Salazar won last November.
Mark Your Calendar
This year’s Kia Outstanding Educator Awards ceremony is Wednesday, November 19 at 4:00 p.m. at Stuart W. Cramer High School. Each school and the Central Office will have a nominee in the random drawing that will determine the 2014 Kia Outstanding Educator and winner of a 2014 Kia Soul from Kia of Gastonia.