My Turn: Aisling Elgesem

This paraeducator works 12-16 hours a day and still provides the support and spirit her students need to be excited learners

Aisling Elgesem, paraeducator, Beach Elementary, Calvert County.

“Giving 110% to the students and staff I work with is never a question but being able to continue to do it without a living wage sadly is.” — Aisling Elgesem, paraeducator, Beach Elementary, Calvert County

I’ve been working with kids since I was 15 and got my first job in a child care center. I worked there for 11 years, leaving as a teacher in the three-year-olds classroom. Soon after, I found a posting for an opening in Calvert County Public Schools and jumped at the chance. I am now in my ninth year as an instructional assistant and I love my job.

Being an instructional assistant affords me the opportunity to work with all of the kids in my building instead of just one grade level. I love that no matter what kind of day I’m having, one of our kids makes me laugh or smile. Whether we are rapping our sounds or on the library floor chatting about the day, I know I am doing my best to make a positive difference. The kids I work with don’t know it but they will forever have a spot in my heart. So many of them have changed my way of thinking.

I recently became involved with my local union, the Calvert Association of Educational Support Staff (CAESS), and am now on our board of directors. Being part of our union is extremely important to me because we are a group of people working together towards our “why.” I know the “why” for doing my job is for the kids and the look on their faces when they have an AHA! moment. My “why” for being part of CAESS is to support my colleagues and let our local and state leaders know we need to see a change in the way support staff are seen.

The fact that so many of us don’t make a living wage is one of the biggest concerns I’ve heard from my colleagues — not only from my own county but from all around the state. It’s difficult to continuously put so much effort into a job you love when you are working two or three other jobs. Like so many others, I work 12–16 hours every day to make ends meet. Giving 110% to the students and staff I work with is never a question; being able to continue to do it without a living wage sadly is.

I love my job and all of the roles I have taken on within it. No matter what our position is in our school, we all want the best for the children in our care. We want to see them succeed.