Three local paraeducators honored with award

As a way to honor the hard work and dedication of the paraeducators employed by the schools within Area Education Agency 267 (AEA 267), the AEA 267 Paraeducator Advisory Committee recognizes three paraeducators with an annual “Paraeducator of the Year” award.

The paraeducator must demonstrate the following characteristics in order to qualify as a nominee:

  • efficiency and initiative in the performance of work as a paraeducator
  • significant personal and/or professional gains
  • enhance the overall image of paraeducators in AEA 267
  • positively impact the student(s) with whom he/she works on a daily basis.

We know that paraeducators are key to the success of any classroom and make a difference every day in the lives of our students. On behalf of the AEA 267 Paraeducator Advisory Committee, we wish to express our sincere appreciation, gratitude, and congratulations for the dedication and compassion Julie, Janet, and Ciana bring to the paraeducator profession.

Julie Brezina’ s Story

(as told by Cherie Overton, Teri Knapp, and Jim Tekippe from South Tama High School)

Julie volunteers with a smile on her face, willing takes training, and acts as a back-up bus attendant with a student with very fragile health issues.  She truly is amazing and South Tama is blessed to have her.  She rarely gets a break and I have witnessed her giving up her own lunch time many times to assist a student.

Julie is often seeking out more work to do, and is willing to do what she can to help any student who needs her according to Teri Knapp.  She is very patient with some of the negative behaviors we see, and is good at de-escalating student when they start to get upset.  Without her, I don’t know how we’d do it.  When I think of how I wish more paraeducators were like, I think of Julie.  She’s hard-working, intelligent, and not afraid to “get her hands dirty” on a day-to-day basis.  Students trust her, and are willing to work with her and speak with her when they shut down to everyone else.

Julie has the ability to mediate conflicts and he counts on her to be his partner in formal Conflict Mediation sessions with students as the need arises.  She sets the bar and she sets it high.  She is very professional in all of her interactions and presentation, while being very approachable both by students and colleagues.  She has the ability to compliment almost any individual teachers’ style.  Julie is a treasure that this district has been extremely fortunate to “own”.

Janet Johnson’s Story

(as told by Tara Davis, Sherry Reifenstahl, Mark Albertsen, and Wendy Ewoldt from Union Community Middle School)

Janet is constantly thinking about ways to better help our students at Union Middle School. She is consistently looking for ideas that will help her work with all learning styles and personalities of students.  She is a go-getter.  Janet is typically one of the last adults to become frustrated with a student’s choices and is always brainstorming ways to motivate.  If a student needs a caring shoulder or an honest piece of advice, Mrs. Johnson is always willing to take time out of her day to listen and help build the student’s self-esteem.

Sherry Reifenstahl states that Janet is respected by faculty because she is not afraid to jump in and help the kids and is always willing to do what is asked if it will benefit kids.  Janet initiated and organized a “birthday club” at UMS, which brings the faculty together for food and fellowship in the lounge before school, between classes, and during “fruit break.”  When students give up on themselves, she pulls them in and has them relate to a personal story from her own life or about a student she worked with at the high school who had similar issues, but overcame them.  Kids seek her out or ask to work with Mrs. J. vs. some of the other staff because they know she cares and will help them.  She tries to make learning fun for them.

Mrs. Johnson is a very giving person.  Plain and simple…she wants to help her students and people she works with.  She fits into our staff very well and is always willing to help out at functions outside of school, such as detention monitor and selling items in the concession stand.  She does not give up on her students.

Janet holds students accountable for their work and yet lets them know that she truly cared for their education as well.  I believe Janet enjoys learning right a long with her students.  She believes in her students and pushes them to do their best, not just at school, but in every aspect of their lives.  I believe Janet has helped shape our students into conscientious, caring, young people.  They will have a better future because of her.

Ciana Peil’s Story

(as told by Monica Hamm, Steve Lane, Alicia Varrelmann, Emily England, and Nancy Johnson of CAL School)

Ciana is an extremely positive and realistic associate who can be counted on to be responsible for any group of students.  She is always very interested in learning more about her position, and other professional development that will help her be a better advocate for her students.  Her genuine concern for the children in our community is extraordinary and she takes on responsibilities to ensure our kids receive the best we can offer.  Ciana never shows her displeasure with students, but is very calm in her work with them, but students also know she means business.

Ciana is the type of individual that will continue taking courses to better our school district and the care of the students.  When she works with children, it is very evident she has their best interest at heart.  She has a natural ability to help students in such a way that she does not do the work for them. Ciana is always asking questions, helping with anything that may or may not be within her assigned duties, and doesn’t need to be told twice to do something.  She takes her job very seriously.  She is a well-rounded person that makes every teacher wish they had a paraeducator like her.  Nancy Johnson feels Ciana is everything you could want in a paraeducator.  She remains very patient and logical even when the students aren’t.

Monica Hamm feels Ciana was consistent and focused on the overall goal the school had set up for one student.  That student is a success story and she helped in that.  She never treated that student differently or got frustrated with him.  She was understanding and caring.  He trusted her a lot.  That is a big accomplishment with that child.

Congratulations to the other nominees from around AEA 267

Becky Backes, Poyner Elem. Waterloo

Sandy Brown, Miller, Marshalltown

Kathy Boyd, Central Springs MS, Central Springs

Vera Bunston, Lincoln Elem. Charles City

Belkis Diaz, South Tama Elem, South Tama

Tana Dixon, East Marshall MS, East Marshall

Laura Eiklenborg, Dike-New Hartford Junior High

Kathy Follmuth, Roosevelt MS, Mason City

Kate Heckroth, Dysart-Geneseo Elem. Union

Mike Holm, Hampton-Dumont HS

Eileen Honeck, West Marshall Elem

Lori Johnson, Dike Elem

Karen Keeling, Roosevelt MS, Mason City

Linda Kollenkark, Southeast Elem, Waverly

Janie Laipple, Holmes Junior High, Cedar Falls

Sara Oppman, Manly Center, Central Springs

Deb Ratchford, Bunger MS, Waterloo

Lee Ann Rew, HD MS, Hampton-Dumont

Maria Rodgers, East HS, Waterloo

Roxanne, Corwith-Wesley-Laverne

Tammy Smith, Madison ECSE, Mason City

Brenda Snider, Dike Elem, Dike New Hartford

Deb Swanson, Middle School, Forest City

Team of Three – RRMR Elem, Rockford  (Dian Koenigsfeld, Jackie Adams, Maggie Pruin)

Shaytra Turner, Hansen Elem, Cedar Falls

Donna Uhlenhopp, South Side Elem, Hampton-Dumont

Deb Welsh, Lowell Elem, Waterloo

Deb Williams, Independence HS

Kim Wolf, East Marshall HS

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