Few things excite Renee Freeman more than talking about her job as a paraprofessional.
“I love my job and being able to help children reach their full potential. You could be the difference for them between a good day and a bad day.”
For the past few years, Freeman has worked one-to-one with the same student. “When I arrived, his notebook was empty. I came to the school in November. I read his IEP, and then I spoke with the teachers.” Freeman met with the student’s mom and worked out a plan to catch him up. “We worked every day and when we finished sixth grade, he didn’t need summer school.” Now, as a ninth-grader, her student helps another child study. “That’s what it’s all about.”
She applies the same level of dedication and perseverence to her union work. Freeman is the interim acting first vice chairperson for the paraprofessional chapter of the United Federation of Teachers. She advocates for more professional development opportunities and helps train new paras, stressing the importance of connecting with others in the field, union organizing and self-care. “It’s so important that those of us who are older help those who are just joining this profession.”