The Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) honored 20 educational support professionals for their outstanding work supporting their students and school communities on December 5. Milford’s nominee for the honor was Education Support Professional of the Year, Christa Henderson.
“Educational support professionals’ roles vary greatly. They provide one-on-one support to students in the classroom. They safely transport children to and from school. They keep our buildings clean and safe. They provide nutritious meals, so our children have the focus and energy to learn. They keep our offices running. They support the technological needs of classrooms. And so much more. Their work often is behind the scenes and rarely do these employees get recognized for how important they are to the success of our schools,” Secretary of Education Mark Holodick said.
A paraprofessional/library specialist who opens the school library during lunches so students can have a space where they feel safe and cared for was named Delaware’s 2024 Delaware Educational Support Professional of the Year.
“The library has an open-door policy so students can take a break, check in or have someone listen to them,” said Sinead Ronan of Caesar Rodney School District’s Magnolia Middle School . “This supports the development of self-regulation and provides an outlet where students can feel heard.”
Ronan immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland 16 years ago and has 11 years of experience as an educational support professional.
She considers forming successful relationships with students, families and colleagues her most important responsibility.
Relationships form the foundation of a successful school environment in the short-term and strengthen the community for the long-term, she said.
“The prefix ‘para’ means ‘beside,’ and individuals in our school community know I will walk their journey beside them,” Ronan said. “My role is to support, empower and encourage them. I believe the personal relationships I establish create a ripple effect across the school environment, creating lasting positive relationships for students.”
Ronan also facilitates and hosts school community events such as Family Literacy Night, Month of the Military Child Celebration, and STEM Night to provide additional connection points.
“As a parent, I know that communication with families is effective. I prioritize calling and meeting with families, focusing on the positive and encouraging student growth and family-school trust. Adults are not perfect, and we shouldn’t expect students to be, either,” Ronan said. “I utilize an asset orientation that shifts the focus from student compliance to personal growth.”
Like the rest of the district and charter nominees, Milford’s Henderson will receive a $2,000 personal award from the district. Ronan will receive an additional $3,000 personal award from the department as well as $5,000 from the department to be used for the educational benefit of his or her students.
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