In March, former Texas Board of Criminal Justice Chairman Allan B. Polunsky presented Correctional Officer V Robyn Cyr with the 2018 Polunsky Unit Employee of the Year Award at a ceremony held at the unit in Livingston. Senior staff at the Polunsky Unit chose Cyr as recipient of the award, which recognizes outstanding work performance by a unit employee.
Officer Cyr has worked at the Polunsky Unit for nine and a half years, her entire TDCJ career. In her current role as a field training officer, she teaches new security staff necessary job skills and helps them find the motivation to build a successful career in criminal justice. Polunsky Unit Warden Michael Butcher explained the special significance of Cyr’s assigned duties: “She takes care of all of our OJTs (on-the-job-trainees) when they come into the unit. She’s the one they’re going to spend the most time with over the first couple of weeks, which makes a definite impression on their opinion of what a correctional officer should be.” Butcher added, “They follow her and, with her commitment and her dedication, it sets the groundwork for the new officers who come in and puts them on the right track. She is absolutely the best example we have of someone who is committed to their job.”
Cyr described her reaction to the award recognition, saying, “I was shocked. I never thought I’d be Employee of the Year.” Asked what she likes most about TDCJ, Cyr responded, “The people. The supervisors. People don’t realize, coming from outside, they say, ‘Oh, a correctional officer, it’s a hard job.’ It is, but it’s a very good job, the state has excellent benefits.” She continued, saying, “I’m proud of the unit. I’m proud of myself. This shows me that they appreciate what I do.” Cyr also talked about what motivates her job performance. “It’s a work ethic. I have things to take care of. I have people to take care of. I have my OJTs to take care of. I call them my kids, so I don’t want to let my kids down.”
Former Chairman Polunsky, namesake of both the award and the unit, was on hand to present the honor. In addition to a certificate, Polunsky rewards the winner with $1000 and two round-trip airline tickets to any destination in the United States. The former chairman explained his reasons for sponsoring the award: “I do it because I have a great appreciation for the employees of this department. They work very, very hard in conditions that are very less than ideal, in very polite terms. If I have the opportunity to come back and thank them personally for what they do, it makes me feel good to be able to extend my thanks and, hopefully, it allows them to understand they are recognized for what they do on a day-to-day basis.”
Asked why the identity of the award winner is kept secret until the recognition ceremony, Polunsky noted, “That’s one of the best parts, because they generally they do not know that they‘ve been selected as Employee of the Year, so it is a surprise to them. When I read their name out, usually there’s a positive reaction and, of course, that makes it all the more fun to be able to participate in the ceremony.” Polunsky also challenged agency staff, communities, civic clubs and individuals to create and participate in other Employee of the Year selection and award ceremonies, encouraging development of “a wider range of opportunities and greater participation in other communities across the state of Texas, so that other employees on these other units can receive the same type of recognition.”