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East County Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021 9 months ago

Lakewood Ranch High School guidance clerk finalist for Support Employee of the Year

After unusual introduction to Lakewood Ranch High, Kari Keech-Babcock provides sweet service to school's community.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

When Greenbrook’s Kari Keech-Babcock came to Lakewood Ranch High four years ago for an interview, she was asked a puzzling question.

If you could be any Dove chocolate, which would you be?

It was a tough and unexpected question coming from Jeannie Galindo, the assistant principal at Lakewood Ranch High, who had a jar of Dove chocolates sitting on her desk.

Keech-Babcock wasn’t sure what to say, but after some careful thought, she provided her answer. 

“‘I would be a caramel dark chocolate because,’ I said, ‘I’m soft on the inside, but I’m strong enough on the outside,’” Keech-Babcock said with a laugh. “I said I’d either be that one or milk chocolate because I’m sweet all the way through.”

Keech-Babcock had never felt so relaxed during an interview and felt at home right away.

For the past four years, she’s called Lakewood Ranch High School her home base as a student services clerk and has dedicated her time to getting to know students and their families as one of the first faces someone sees when they walk into the main office of the school.

Her positive attitude, hard work and dedication to the faculty, staff and students, as well as their families are just some of the reasons Keech-Babcock was named a finalist for the School District of Manatee County’s 2022 Excellence in Education Awards Support Employee of the Year.

“I am so honored and humble,” Keech-Babcock said. “I don’t look at what I do as above and beyond. I think of it as helping people. It feels nice to be recognized, but it’s a team. I’m the way I am because of the people I’m around. I feel like it’s important to be yourself around people.”

Lakewood Ranch High Principal Dustin Dahlquist described Keech-Babcock as welcoming, positive, patient and caring.

“She is dedicated to making Lakewood Ranch High School a better place each day,” Dahlquist said. “Kari is willing to step in to assist anywhere she is needed on campus. She embraces her role through excellent customer service.”

Keech-Babcock moved to Manatee County four years ago from Winnipeg, Canada, with her husband, Jordan Babcock. She had been working as the registrar at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. She loved working with the students and their families while seeing students’ dreams come to fruition and grow.

Kari Keech-Babcock, a guidance clerk at Lakewood Ranch High School, loves building relationships with students and their families.

Since then, Keech-Babcock has worn many hats at Lakewood Ranch High including attendance clerk, guidance clerk and working at the front desk.

“I love my families and my kiddos, as I call them,” she said. “I absolutely love building relationships and getting to see people be who they are. I think it’s important when somebody comes into a building that they feel at home, so I like to learn people’s names and get to know them. It’s gotten to the point where now I know people’s family members.”

No matter her position on staff, Galindo said Keech-Babcock always is consistent.

“I know who I can count on,” Galindo said. “She will be the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. She’ll be kind, loving, caring, efficient, the same every day in all the right ways.”

As one of the first faces people see when coming to Lakewood Ranch High School, Dahlquist said, Keech-Babcock leaves a lasting impression.

“She maintains her professionalism at all times no matter the situation,” Dahlquist said. “Kari is often the first person anyone meets at our school. We know that the first impression can be long lasting and sometimes the only impression. When Kari meets them at the front door, they have to walk away with only positive thoughts.”

This year, Keech-Babcock has turned her love of video games into a coaching position as the school’s e-sports team coach.

She said some people are surprised by her love for video games, especially when they find out she met her husband through World of Warcraft.

Keech-Babcock describes herself as a bit of a nerd. Her family likes to attend comic-cons. She also loves all things “Harry Potter,” “Captain Marvel” and “Star Wars.”

Keech-Babcock enjoys sitting in the background listening as her students work together in competitions and building relationships.

“I like to see them reach their full potential,” Keech-Babcock said. “I (couldn’t) care less if we win any games. I want to see them as human beings do better, be better. To see them make those connections is by far the most fulfilling.”

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