Q: As a paraprofessional, what do you do on a day-to-day basis?
A: Paraprofessionals are the heart of the school. We take on everything and every student. In each school district, it’s different. In our school district, paraprofessionals are typically those who work with special needs students. In other districts, all support staff are labeled paraprofessionals, so they work with all students in the building. I have students that I see daily that I don’t do educational services with, but I provide emotional services. I’m their person. So, I believe paraprofessionals are the heart of the school, because we take on all the kids.
Q: What led you to being a paraprofessional?
A: I’ve always wanted to work at a school. I come from a family of teachers. My grandmother was a teacher in Southern Indiana. I remember when I went to visit her one year and I visited her class, and she dressed up as Johnny Appleseed and I remember thinking that it was so cool. I, myself, had so many wonderful teachers when I was in school. They were amazing teachers and I wanted to do the same thing. I went to college and studied special education, but I had already started working at a school corporation and I loved what I did so much I decided to continue doing what I was doing.
Q: What do want your students to gain from you?
A: I want them to know that someone cares for them, respects them and wants what’s best for them. I want them to know that it’s okay to have bad days and go through things and express what’s happening in a productive manner. I believe if we don’t treat them like people first, we’re not able to build a relationship with them and help them educationally, socially, emotionally and mentally.
Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
A: A lot of union things now, but I also love to work with animals. I am the vice president of a 501©3 that works with local animal shelters. I spend as much of my free time as I can at our local animal shelter. I run their volunteer program and I help a lot with their outreach and programs. I help rescue animals and maintain a zoo at my home. Besides that, I spend time with my family and we travel a lot. We are national park nerds.
Q. What kinds of animals do you have at home?
A. We always have our dogs and cats. But – we also have a raccoon. We provide a little place outside for him and provide food once or twice a week. We also do the same for a opossum that was hurt. We’ve had birds. We always have some kinds of wild animal in the house that we take care of.
Q. How do you think being a leader within ISTA has affected you personally?
A. It’s opened my eyes to everything that’s available. I attended the NEA ESP conference and I learned so much. The number of things that I didn’t know was available was mind-blowing. I found out that there are micro-credentials and workshops that we, as education support professionals, can access. This past summer, I attended the Summer Leadership Conference and Educators of Color conference. Before, I didn’t know those opportunities were available for us. I thought they were just for teachers. I’ve been a sponge soaking up what’s available and somehow that led to me taking a leadership position. I enjoy it! I went to Orlando for the NEA RA and I loved sitting there for 11 hours doing business and learning new things. I’ve been doing this for 25 years, so it’s my responsibility to now do what I can do help the union.