My Turn: Sharon Gross Howard

Sharon Gross Howard is an instructional assistant at Mardela Middle and High School in Wicomico County and a member of the Wicomico County Education Association.

Don’t tell the Universe what you plan for your life—it has its own plans. I never imagined being an educator; I had dreamt of being a businessperson who would travel the country.

Instead, I began my career as an educator nearly 35 years ago when my daughters started elementary school. We relocated from Ohio to Maryland where we could live closer to our families. But the area was much different—more populated and congested—and I wondered how we would fit in. My prayer was like that of every other parent: how can I keep my children safe and find the right school for them. I realized then that if I wanted to keep my children safe, I should keep all children safe and if I wanted my children learn, I should help all children learn.

As my girls grew older, I created youth programs such as an area Girl Scout troop, a Double Dutch team, a social etiquette group, and Black history

contests and presentations. I never imagined that my work with youth would be the most rewarding of my life. I’ve learned that when given the opportunity, children will not only take on a challenge, they will master it and make it their own.

About 10 years ago, I was offered the opportunity to work with a special education team and autistic students ranging from elementary to high school. These students were indeed special–they were well behaved, intelligent, organized, and structured. My heart was always with these students, but the pay was disappointing. At that time, I worked a second job as a part-time tutor which paid more than my full-time job as an instructional assistant.

I live in Salisbury now and work at Mardela Middle and High School, where the administration and staff have a true passion for teaching students. We all share a common goal to develop, encourage, and motivate our students to learn what they need to be successful, moral, and productive citizens in our society.

I am a proud building rep for my school. I’m very thankful and excited to share with my colleagues the benefits of being a member of the union and how we can add our voice on issues affecting the workplace. I look forward to supporting the ESP Bill of Rights as we collectively bargain for fair wages and a healthy, safe, and encouraging school environment!

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