From teaching students motor skills to soothing their souls when school is overwhelming and seemingly impossible, the work of paraeducators in Canyons School District is vital to the well-being and success of Canyons’ special education students.
These are the Education Support Professionals who come to work every day to battle disability, injustice, and sometimes extreme emotional distress to help students and teachers with extra support. They know their students’ names, their likes, dislikes, and their abilities and their students know they’re not alone. They have high expectations for each student, and day by day, they work to help each student reach those expectations. Today, we pay tribute to 10 exceptional paraeducators who are making a difference in Canyons School District. Congratulations to the winners of CSD’s 2020 Paraeducator Recognition of Excellence Awards.
Jordan Valley School
Suzie has the distinctive ability to connect with the students who push back the most. The Jordan Valley School paraeducator sees the person behind the behavioral concerns and treats students with the utmost dignity and respect. Suzie has an incredible amount of responsibility and manages to do every part of her job with ease and positivity. She takes initiative, quickly analyzing any situation she encounters and responding appropriately with minimal support. Looked up to by many, she is the type of paraeducator all should aspire to be.
Jordan Valley School
Carolyn always seeks to engage students at Jordan Valley. While working in a physically challenging room, she has been crucial in the progress of individual students and the development of their adaptive behaviors. She finds the good in each student and capitalizes on their skills. She brings humor and excitement to every activity. She carries out and enhances lessons where possible. She understands and respects the challenges of each individual student and is definitely a student favorite.
Quail Hollow Elementary
No day is ever the same for Heidi. In the eight years that she has been in the classroom, she has constantly adjusted how she interacts with the students based on what they need. Quick to implement new strategies and consistently seeking feedback to improve, Heidi strives to do her best in a professional manner at Quail Hollow. As she shows genuine interest in individual students, Heidi is a shining example to others on how to understand every child’s strengths and struggles. She is willing to tackle any task or challenge presented to her, including leaving her typical routine to help in other classes. She is as much a cheerleader for her peers as she is for her students.
Eastmont Middle School
Joelle goes above and beyond to make sure every student with whom she interacts at Eastmont Middle is successful and happy. She works with students in the Academic Behavioral Supports class yet goes out of her way to also help those in general education and resource settings. Joelle brings creativity and an artistic talent with her each day to develop relationships built on trust and respect. Steady and calm, she assists students with their classwork and helps them reflect on their behavior choices. She stands up for students’ rights during inclusion classes, and is an excellent communicator in working with other paraeducators, teachers, and staff.
East Midvale Elementary
Becky started as a reading intervention aide. She worked to bridge the gap with many students who eventually qualified for special education, and enjoyed her work so much that she decided to go to college to become a special education teacher. She is very good at supporting student learning at East Midvale as well as treating all students with great care and respect. She works hard and invests time preparing to assist in teaching daily lessons with skill, exemplifying the needed characteristics for an outstanding paraeducator and a future teacher.
Sharon “Gayle” Gillespie
Gayle is an amazing asset to the motor development team and the students she serves. She develops creative treatment activities and goes above and beyond expectations to come to each session prepared. She is always helpful and goes out of her way to make the activities meaningful for the students she serves. Students love Gayle and are always willing to do their best work for her. She is kind and patient and has high expectations of her students. She helps them realize they can achieve hard things.
Brighton High School
Over the past three years, Brighton High’s Carol Brindle has helped 10 students in the Accommodated Common Core classroom meet graduation requirements and earn a standard diploma. She tracked these students daily, often reading their assignments aloud to them and printing lists of their missing work so they could catch up. In addition to her work in mainstream classes, she has been in charge of helping students earn their food handler’s permit by cooking, preparing, and selling breakfast burritos. She has overseen the organization of this program for the past six years. Carol also helps students hone their job skills at the Bengal Store where they learn punctuality, cleanliness, customer service, and financial numeracy skills.
Because the Special Education team at Brookwood is part-time, it can be a challenge organize the schedules and paperwork for those students who face unique struggles and must often attend meetings that overlap with instructional group time. Tracy is the first to be willing to adjust her work schedule to accommodate meetings, testing and other student needs to ensure each day goes smoothly. She even jumps in to teach when necessary. Tracy knows when to ask questions, when to jump in and when to step back. She is an amazing paraeducator.
Bella Vista Elementary
Barbara consistently brings new ideas and strategies to Bella Vista to reach and support students individually and collectively. During group time, she is talented at expanding student learning and following their interests to increase their enthusiasm for building new skills. She is a master at collecting data and using it to adjust instruction. She comes to school each day with a smile and is ready to tackle and embrace whatever the day brings. Barbara is loved by each of the students and it shows as soon as they arrive at school. They know how much she cares, because she knows each of them by name, their likes, dislikes, interests, and more. She does not just observe from a distance but gets down on their level and plays with them, listens to them and helps them grow in their problem-solving skills.
Jordan High School
When working with students at Jordan High, Natalie is positive and encouraging. The students seem to try harder when she is there. Natalie has always been kind and encouraging to students. When she sees or hears of someone having a difficult time, she always tries to make life just a little brighter. A recent example is when she gave a student a winter coat after she noticed the student was just wearing a hoodie. It meant so much to the student who insisted upon wearing the coat every day at school, even as the weather grew warmer.