Para Spotlight: Ryan Black

Sent in by: Sharon Oberne, First Grade Teacher, Willoughby Elementary School

For the past ten years, I was a literacy specialist working with small groups. Due to budget cuts, I was placed back in the classroom as a first grade inclusion teacher. It was Ryan Black, a special educational assistant, who provided a helping hand.

It was a difficult transition back into the classroom, especially when it came to using technology. It was Ryan who coached me on how to use the Smart Board and various computer applications. She also provided insight into understanding more about the students receiving special educational services.

My classroom consists of twenty-three students. Most of these students are receiving some form of special educational services. Ryan provides much-needed assistance during mathematics and communication skills' blocks. I can honestly say that without Ryan's help, the students would not meet their IEP goals.

Recently, an unexpected audit was conducted in my classroom from Norfolk Public Schools' Central Administration. In fact, all primary classrooms were targeted on the same day. Unfortunately, Ryan was at a meeting and not in my classroom when these two professionals came. I was skeptical in how I would be able to conduct groups during math time, since these individuals were not in any hurry to leave. I really thought they would have left after carefully examining the students' writing and reading portfolios. I decided to hand over my lesson plans, since they had not asked for them, while letting them know that this was an inclusion class. These professionals were speechless!

As I conducted the three math groups, sending my higher group to math stations, I soon discovered that ALL the students were very efficient in showcasing their skills. I was totally blown away and very excited over everyone's progress, especially the students Ryan worked with. So much so, that one of the auditors had to see exactly what the students were working on. The expression on her face was priceless and to me it was worth more than a million dollars. Of course, I cannot take full credit for this, because Ryan Black is a golden asset in the classroom.

Besides providing assistance in my classroom, Ryan also helps in several other inclusion classrooms, which includes kindergarten, third grade and fifth grade. I do not know how she does it all! In her spare time, she is involved with special projects for the school, such as PTA programs, children's events, and as an editorial advisor for young authors seeking publication.

Ryan Black has received the "Star Mentoring" Award several times for her dedication as being a mentor for disadvantaged youth. In addition, Ryan has been nominated for the prestigious Norfolk Public Schools' Inspirational Award as a Paraprofessional.

Ryan is passionate in her role as a teacher assistant. Her commitment as a paraprofessional is exceptional and is truly an example for others to follow.

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