The 20 individuals who have been named as Educational Support Professionals of the Year are the “glue that keeps our schools together.”
“Educating kids through teachers is the goal and the mission of schools,” said John Marinucci, executive director of the Delaware School Board Association, “but the support folks handle all the things that have to take place around the education they receive.”
Those workers include custodians, paraprofessionals, secretaries, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, aides and information technology staff.
Without them, Marinucci said, the school couldn’t function.
For the third year, the Delaware Department of Education will name one as the state honoree on Dec. 7 at the Modern Maturity Center in Dover.
“Their work often is behind the scenes and rarely gets the recognition it deserves,” said Education Secretary Mark Holodick.
The event to honor Delaware’s Educational Support Professional of the Year will be livestreamed on the education department’s YouTube and facebook accounts after the dinner portion of the evening. It’s expected to be shortly after 7 p.m.
The winner will receive $3,000 from the state and be given $5,000 to benefit his/her students.
Last year’s winner was David Thomas, computer lab/technology paraprofessional at Lake Forest East Elementary School at Lake Forest School.
The 2023 honorees, who all receive $2,000 from their district or charter school, are:
Appoquinimink: Claudine Strawbridge, paraprofessional at Cantwell’s Bridge Middle School
Brandywine: Meg Brown, senior secretary and registrar at Concord High School
Caesar Rodney: Jossette Threatts, service and instructional paraprofessional at George Welch Elementary School
Cape Henlopen: Brittany Hoeller, paraprofessional at Lewes Elementary School
Capital: David Hom, operations technician at the Office of Technology
Charter Network: Eric Winston, nutrition coordinator, facilities manager and assistant athletic director at Early College School at Delaware State University
Christina: Matthew Stearn, paraprofessional at Networks School for Employability Skills
Colonial: Joseph Davis, custodian at John G. Leach School
Delmar: Michelle Niblett, paraprofessional at Delmar Middle and High schools
Indian River: Arleth Avalos, paraprofessional at Indian River School District Early Learning Center
Lake Forest: Heather Hitchens, paraprofessional at Lake Forest Central Elementary School
Laurel: Ashley Pugh, secretary at Laurel High School
Milford: Lisa McQueen, paraprofessional and behavior interventionist at Lulu Ross Elementary School
New Castle County Vo-Tech: Michele Marra, administrative assistant to the superintendent at the district office
Polytech: Jodine Cybulski, paraprofessional at Polytech High School
Red Clay Consolidated: Clare Lawrence, chief custodian at McKean High School
Seaford: Daniel Hopkins, chief custodian at West Seaford Elementary School
Smyrna: Pamela Hilliard, paraprofessional and behavior interventionist at Sunnyside Elementary School
Sussex Tech: Kim Speicher, administrative assistant to the superintendent at the district office
Woodbridge: Ricki L. Truitt, student services and guidance secretary at Woodbridge High 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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