My Turn: Jenny Duggan

Jenny Duggan is a pre-k paraprofessional at Emma K. Doub Elementary School in Washington County.

I wanted to be a teacher from my very first experience in school. I remember being scared and nervous and so unsure of what school was all about. But when my teacher allowed me to sit in her rocking chair as student of the week, I was hooked.

As time went on, I never let go of that dream. In 2007, my husband and I moved from Montgomery County to Washington County and I desperately wanted to find a job here where I could plant my feet and grow roots. Washington County Public Schools was that place, and I began my journey as a paraprofessional in December 2008.

My first job in the county was at Marshall Street School, which primarily serves special education students. I loved the genuine nature of the students, the support from parents, and the way the staff worked closely as a team—always with students at the center of our hard work. Now, I’m a pre-k paraprofessional at Emma K. Doub and it just feels like family. While our schoolhouses an arts integration and technology magnet program, all students participate in regular integrated lessons during which they learn content through the lens of art, music, theater, and physical education, often using technology.

As a paraprofessional I can take the time to comfort a sad child, a scared child, or a child in crisis with one-on-one attention and love. Being an extra set of eyes, ears, and comforting arms is what makes my position so special and this is particularly important in pre-k and kindergarten. It’s not uncommon to find me sitting on the floor reading, building, and creating, or working with small groups offering additional academic support.

I was proud to represent paraprofessionals as a finalist for Washington County ESP of the Year in 2020 and honored to shine a light on the amazing work that we do. Working during the pandemic left most ESPs feeling forgotten and unsure of our futures. I’m so thankful for the support of our union for working to ensure we had job security, financial security, and safe working conditions during such unpredictable times. The coronavirus definitely redefined my role as a paraprofessional and gave me the chance to showcase my flexibility. I was able to remotely assist in other grade levels and learn from other educators.

Now we are back in classrooms, cafeterias, and busses ready to support our students and school families. I have indeed found a place to grow my roots and the fruit of my labor shines in the faces of our students.

Photo: Stephen Cherry Photography ©2021

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