Top Honors for a Deserving Paraprofessional

IB Image
Seel (above, second from left) last night was honored at an official recognition ceremony in Meriden.
 
"I believe that paraeducators are instrumental in providing a quality education for all students," said Seel, a Hartford Federation of Paraprofessionals union member. "All students are capable of learning and succeeding, and you can help them achieve almost anything as long as you remain student-focused," Seel added.
 
Seel's career as a paraeducator spans 21 years, beginning in Southeastern Connecticut and then at L.W. Batchelder Elementary School in Hartford. Seel was inspired to enter the profession and help students with special needs by her son Jaime, who lived with cerebral palsy before passing away at the age of 17.
 
"Educators are our most important resource," said Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman (above, left) at Monday's announcement. "And Connecticut is honored to count Denise Seel among them. I want thank her and the many others who are tireless in their commitment to our students and their futures," Wyman added.
 
"Strong paraeducators are critical to helping our students develop a lifelong love of learning," said SDE Commissioner Dianna Wentzell (above, right). "Denise Seel is a dedicated educator whose passion for helping all students thrive in school and rise to their potential has impacted hundreds of students and their families throughout her career," Wentzell added. 
 
Seel was selected among three finalists, 10 semi-finalists, and 40 district Paraeducators of the Year. Statewide, there are approximately 14,000 paras providing students with vital classroom supports in local and regional public school districts, including 485 in Hartford.
 
Paraeducators are often among the lowest paid public school employees despite being frequently assigned to students with special needs -- and who therefore present some of the greatest challenges.
 
"Denise demonstrates the value that all school support staff bring to our students' lives," said AFT Connecticut Vice-President for Paraprofessionals and School-Related Personnel (PSRPs) Shellye Davis (above, second from right). "We like to say that we are the engines that keep our classrooms running. I couldn't be prouder that Denise is being recognized for the work she does every day," added Davis, who also serves as co-president of our Hartford paras union.
 
Click here to watch additional press coverage of Monday's announcement.
 
The Paraeducator of the Year program was established by SDE and the School Paraprofessional Advisory Council, which includes members of AFT-Connecticut affiliated PSRP unions. The award was named in honor of Anne Marie Murphy, a special education para who was among the victims of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
 
Its purpose is to recognize the important role paraeducators play in supporting student learning and academic achievement. Seel will be tasked in the coming year with representing her profession in forums to raise public awareness and on advisory committees to help shape policies impacting paras.
 
Click here to learn more about the paraeducator of the year program.