Millbridge Elementary School’s Karen Macey was named the 2020 Delran Paraprofessional of the Year last month.
On the road to education, Macey eventually found her home at Millbridge. Her hard work and ability to connect with students earned her the prestigious award.
“It was a shock,” Macey said. “We were having a Christmas singalong and halfway through, they stopped and announced the teachers and paraprofessional of the year. I didn’t know about it at all.
“It was overwhelming because we have so many good paraprofessionals, so for me to be picked was shocking.”
Janine Lenguadoro, an elementary physical education and health teacher at Millbridge, nominated Macey because of the way she connects with her students, the way students respond to her and her hard work. It was an easy decision, Lenguadoro said.
“I love when Karen comes into class with me. The kids love her,” she noted. “I nominated her because she is one of the most amazing paraprofessionals that I have ever worked with in my 21 years at Millbridge.
“Karen doesn’t know this, but the entire faculty talks about her and how much of a value she is,” Lenguadoro added. “She is a treasure to us at Millbridge and I know I’m not the only person that nominated her.
“She loves the kids and they love her.”
Prior to becoming a paraprofessional at Millbridge, Macey was a legal secretary in Philadelphia. But after having children, she sought a different career. While speaking with her sister, a teacher in Burlington, Macey decided to become a teacher’s aide.
Despite coming from a legal background, her transition to education was not as daunting as might be expected. Support from the Millbridge staff taught Macey the necessary tips and tools, such as speaking slowly and using minimal words.
Coupled with her natural patience and compassion, that support allowed Macey to transition smoothly.
“I love special ed,” she said. “It’s a challenge every day. You have to figure out how a child with special needs learns and understand that they’re all different. The way one person is able to learn, the kid next to them may not understand what you’re trying to teach them.
“I like that challenge.”
According to Macey, some students may take longer to process things, some may be visual learners and others will work for rewards like snack money. It’s all about motivating the students while always treating them the same as others.