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Tenisha Baker, Paraprofessional of the Year

The Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) and the School Paraprofessional Advisory Council established the Connecticut Paraprofessional of the Year Program to recognize the important role of the paraprofessional in supporting student achievement. The program honors one paraprofessional who has demonstrated exceptional skill and dedication in his/her job, thereby earning them the respect and admiration of students, teachers, administrators, coworkers, and parents.

In his letter of recommendation, her principal, Emil Kopcha, calls Tenisha, a “valuable member of our school community. Her dedication, pride and commitment are assets that have led her to become the East Hartford Paraprofessional of the Year.”

Krystle Sheehan, a special education teacher who works with Ms. Baker adds that “Tenisha will not deny help to any student, identified as having a disability or not. Without question she goes the extra mile to help students with projects, organization, assistance in all subject areas, as well as offer emotional support and a listening ear.”

Among her contributions, Tenisha developed a Buddy/Buddee Leader Program at her school. In this program, sixth-grade students work with fourth-graders that need extra instruction. Ms. Baker wanted to ensure that students who have some behavioral challenges are chosen to be the leaders and paired with fourth-graders with behavioral challenges. This gives them the self confidence they need to be role models to the younger students. Ms. Baker mentors the peer leaders, who have risen to the occasion and have improved their behavior because their self-esteem has increased.

There were many factors that influenced Ms. Baker to become a paraprofessional including her love for teaching students who have difficulties learning and her appreciation for education. The primary reason she decided to become a paraprofessional is because of her son Daniel. Daniel was a special education student requiring speech from age two and he didn’t start talking until age five, which required speech and language until sixth-grade and language services through eighth-grade. Some suggested that Ms. Baker wouldn’t do well in his school because the school was geared toward grooming kids who want to go to Ivy League Schools. At the end of that school year, Daniel had B’s and earned all of the most improved awards in every subject. Daniel now attends college.

“I decided to enter this field to help all the Daniels’ of East Hartford. I know that there are many kids that just need extra support like Danny. I know that there are many kids that are not as fortunate as Daniel to have supportive family members. It doesn’t mean that they can’t thrive. They are striving to learn and to prove that they can do better.”

As Paraprofessional of the Year, Ms. Baker will serve on the School Paraprofessional Advisory Council and will represent paraprofessionals in forums and conferences that highlight the effective utilization and evaluation of paraprofessionals across the state. Ms. Baker and all district paraprofessionals of the year will be recognized during SERC’s Paraprofessionals as Partners Conference on Wednesday, November 14, 2012, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Cromwell.

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