Discovering a Career

My Turn: Rafael Garcia

Rafael Garcia is a special education instructional assistant at Tuscarora Elementary School in Frederick County. He’s a member of the Frederick Association of School Support Employees (FASSE).

I’ve been a special education instruc­tors assistant for the past few school years at Tuscarora Elementary School in Frederick County. Before this, I was in the service as a hospital corpsman with the United States Navy.

When I left the service, I went into law enforcement as a deputy sheriff in my hometown in Virginia. But when I moved to Maryland six years ago, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I enrolled at Frederick Community College in the nursing program, but quickly found that it wasn’t the right fit for me. I knew I enjoyed working with children—I did a lot of command events while in service with various local Special Olympic programs. With that in mind, I decided to pursue a career in special education.

I’ve never questioned my decision. One of the most fulfilling aspects of my job is knowing that slowly but surely, I’m making progress with the students I work with—whether it’s the first time they count to 10 or taking deep breaths and successfully de-escalating. Each success is one step closer to getting them to their goals. These are pivotal moments for me in my career.

In my downtime, I enjoy going out into the wilderness. I regularly take hiking and camping trips to the Rocky Mountains and other places so that I can be Zen and recharge my battery. I also enjoy hunting and fishing, which isn’t about what I may or may not catch, but rather the process. And music festivals and sporting events with my kids or a close group of friends is always fun.

I’m still relatively new to FASSE, but I can say that from the beginning that I have felt nothing but welcomed. I went to the Summer Leadership Conference in July to attend the Emerging Leaders program and I left with a true sense of what it meant to be in the union. I learned that the union is there when things come up, but its larger role is in organizing us as workers to be the change we want to see, and that means action—not just talk. I was recently elected as the building rep for support staff in my building and I’ve taken the values from the conference into my new role. I view this as the beginning of the change I want to make within our profession. We all need to work together, even when our views may differ.

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