NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango tossed aside her prepared remarks when she welcomed School-Related Professional leaders to the statewide union’s SRP Summer Training Institute this week.
Instead, DiBrango told her personal story about how important SRPs are to the school community.
“I started my career as an SRP,” DiBrango said.
She graduated from Mohawk Valley Community College with a degree in secretarial science — proud to be the first in her family to earn a college degree — and she began her career as a secretary to the principal at Oneida County BOCES.
She enjoyed that work and knew she was an integral part of the school community. As fate would have it, classroom substitutes were in short supply and DiBrango often found herself filling in.
“It was there that I really fell in love with teaching,” DiBrango said. She went to school in the evenings to earn her bachelor’s degree in education from SUNY Oswego.
As a classroom teacher, DiBrango always recognized the critical role of SRPs. “In my 25 years in the classroom, I know I couldn’t have done it without SRPs,” she said. “I know all the important work you do.”
DiBrango’s family has a long line of SRPs. Her mother is a retired classroom paraprofessional from New Hartford schools and her mother-in-law served as a kindergarten para in Utica City schools and is also retired.
Her beloved grandfather worked as both a bus driver and school custodian at Clinton Schools and DiBrango was struck at an early age what a significant part of the school community he was.
“He took such pride in his work. I actually remember the gleaming boiler room floor because it was so clean and shiny,” she said. “But most of all I remember how much the teachers loved him. How he made an impact on the school’s climate and culture. They told me stories about how he helped them and how he was such an important part of the school community.
“What I took away from that is that every single person is so essential in the school community,” DiBrango said. “Everyone has a crucial role … Everything you do everyday to ensure that our students get to school, have warm meals, that they’re learning — is absolutely critical. Too often, you do it really quietly behind the scenes without many thanks. I want you to know NYSUT appreciates you.”
DiBrango thanked the SRP leaders for stepping up and participating in the train-the-trainer program with NYSUT’s Education & Learning Trust. As facilitators with the expanded SRP training program, the leaders bring practical and valuable expertise, providing members with an authentic and relatable professional development experience.
Tammy Hughes, a sixth-grade teaching assistant and vice president of the East Syracuse-Minoa Teaching Assistants’ Association, said she stepped up to be an ELT instructor for SRPs because she believes professional development opportunities need to be improved and driven by members, not district administrators.
In the coming year, ELT is adding three new SRP courses. They are: “5 Tips to Diffuse Difficult Behaviors in Today’s Schools;” “Cognitive Strategies and Engagement;” and “Understanding Diversity: How Are Schools Are Changing.” The three were added to an extensive number of SRP offerings, including online coursework.
ELT offers a wide variety of in-service professional development programs and seminars to meet the needs of NYSUT members. ELT in-service programs are typically brought to the membership by a sponsoring agency, such as a NYSUT local, a teacher center, or a district representative. ELT courses can be used by teaching assistants to meet the state’s new Continuing Teacher & Leaders (CTLE) requirements.
For more information,visit elt.nysut.org.