DOVER — A paraprofessional/library specialist from Caesar Rodney School District’s Magnolia Middle School is the state’s 2024 Delaware Educational Support Professional of the Year.
Sinead Ronan says her role is to come along side students and educators.
“The prefix ‘para’ means beside, and individuals in our school community know I will walk their journey beside them,” Ms. 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.”
Ms. Ronan, who has 11 years of experience as an educational support professional, considers forming successful relationships with students, families, and colleagues her most important responsibility, saying these relationships form the foundation of a successful school environment in the short-term and strengthen the community for the long-term. She opens the library during lunches so students have access to a space where they can feel safe and cared for.
“The library has an open-door policy so students can take a break, check in, or have someone listen to them. This supports the development of self-regulation and provides an outlet where students can feel heard,” Ms. Ronan said.
She also prioritizes forming positive relationships with students’ families, facilitating and hosting 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,” Ms. Ronan said. “I utilize an asset orientation that shifts the focus from student compliance to personal growth. Communicating with families through encouragement and support creates a community within which the student will be successful.”
Secretary of Education Mark Holodick announced the 2023 recipient Dec. 5 during a statewide celebration to honor the 2024 cohort of district/charter educational support professionals of the year. They were chosen to represent their districts or the Delaware Charter School Network in the state’s Delaware Educational Support Professional of the Year Program.
The Delaware State Educational Support Professional of the Year program recognizes outstanding service by school employees who provide direct or indirect services to students and their families. The Delaware Charter School Network also is invited to participate. Employees considered for the award include paraprofessionals, custodial staff, secretaries, nutritional staff, school- and district-employed bus drivers, school- and district-employed bus aides and information technology staff.
From those nominated at a building level, one educational support professional of the year moves forward to represent each district or the charter school community in the state program.
Each district/charter network winner receives a $2,000 personal award from the winner’s district or charter school.
The state program then chooses one person annually to serve as Delaware’s Educational Support Professional of the Year. State winners 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.
A selection committee reviewed the local winners’ state applications to select the 2024 Delaware Educational Support Professional of the Year. This year’s selection committee members were: Susan Bunting (retired Secretary of Education), Chaneya Edwards (Delaware Department of Education field agent, School Support Services), Candice Fifer (member, State Board of Education), Susan Haberstroh (retired DOE director, School Support Services), Heather Hitchens (2023 Delaware Educational Support Professional of the Year), Stephanie Ingram (president, Delaware State Education Association), and David Thomas (2022 Delaware Educational Support Professional of the Year).