One education support professional will be chosen Dec. 5 as the state’s best out of the 19 chosen by school districts and one charter school.
This is the fourth year the Department of Education has recognized a State Educational Support Professional of the Year.
“Educational support professionals’ roles vary greatly,” said Mark Holodick, secretary of education. “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 is often behind the scenes, he said, and rarely do they get recognized for how important they are to the success of Delaware’s schools.
Support professionals include paraprofessionals, custodial staff, secretaries, nutritional staff, information technology staff, bus drivers and bus aides.
“Each of these employees and the many colleagues they represent across our state deserve our gratitude,” he said.
This year’s nominees are:
Appoquinimink: Ingrid Coria, paraprofessional at Everett Meredith Middle School
Brandywine: Crystal Day, administrative assistant at Concord High School
Caesar Rodney: Sinead Ronan, paraprofessional/library specialist at Magnolia Middle School
Cape Henlopen: Gilbert Maull, instructional paraprofessional at Rehoboth Elementary School
Capital: Mary Simpers, Title I paraprofessional at Hartly Elementary School
Charter Network: Craig Aukamp, athletic trainer/support professional at the Charter School of Wilmington
Christina: Khiry Henderson, custodian/maintenance at the Eden Support Service Center
Colonial: Nicole C. Gebhart, senior lead field technician at the Colonial Operations Building
Delmar: Bethany Copeland, paraprofessional at Delmar Middle School
Indian River: Michelle Gates, guidance secretary at Georgetown Middle School
Lake Forest: Michele Schoof, paraprofessional/social emotional learning at Lake Forest East Elementary School
Laurel: Michael D. Snead, behavioral paraprofessional at Laurel Elementary School
Milford: Christa Henderson, instructional support paraprofessional at Lulu Ross Elementary School
New Castle County Vo-Tech: Pamela Wise-Bowen, guidance secretary at Delcastle Technical High School
Polytech: Elaine Balcerak, paraprofessional at Polytech High School
Red Clay Consolidated: Neil Patel, help desk support analyst at the Information Technology Office
Seaford: Vincent T. Evans, Jr., dean of students at Seaford Middle School
Smyrna: Lisa Haywood, paraprofessional, Smyrna High School
Sussex Tech: Shannon Brown, paraprofessional at Sussex Technical High School
Woodbridge: Rommel Ongaco, child nutrition manager at Phillis Wheatley Elementary School
A selection committee is in the process of reviewing the nominees’ applications, and the state honoree will be announced at a celebration the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 5 in Dover.
The event will be live-streamed via the Department of Education’s YouTube and Facebook shortly after 7 p.m.
Each nominee receives a $2,000 personal award from the winner’s district or charter school.
The state winner will serve as the 2024 Delaware’s Educational Support Professional of the Year and will receive an additional $3,000 personal award from the Department of Education as well as $5,000 to be used for the educational benefit of his or her students, for a grand total of $10,000.
This year’s state winner will take over the title from 2023 Delaware Educational Support Professional of the Year Heather Hitchens, a paraprofessional at Lake Forest Central Elementary School.
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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