LIVE & LEARN: It Really Takes a Village to Educate a Child


by Riley O’Casey

In her 1996 book, “It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us,” First Lady Hillary Clinton discusses her vision for the children of America and the impact all individuals and groups outside the family have on a child’s well-being. She advocates a society that meets all the needs of every child in America.

Each school, a microcosm of our global village, relies on classified staff to work with teachers in nurturing our youth. In schools, it takes a village to educate a child. Teachers cannot do it alone.

The National Education Association, as well as the Virginia Education Association and Prince William Education Association, call classified staff ESPs (Education Support Professionals). I call them heroes!

The first PWCS employee a child sees in the morning and the last person they see at the end of the day is their bus driver. Their responsibility is to safely deliver children to school and then home. If you have never ridden on a bus with 35 or 40 children I highly suggest you take that adventure. I did it several times and barely came out alive. Our bus drivers are amazing, patient souls who make sure our children are safe.

Many PWCS students have two of their three meals at school. The cafeteria employees are in the kitchen every day making breakfast and lunch for 80,000+ students. For some, this may be their only two meals a day and we have our cafeteria employees to thank for that.

I learned in graduate school that it’s really the secretaries and custodians that run the school. How true this statement really is!  The secretaries are the first people you interact with when you enter a school; they take care of everyone and everything.   The secretaries at my school are amazing, and when teachers have a problem, we call them because they will fix anything. They are also counselors, nurses and advisors to administrators.

While most of us were at home relaxing during the two snow days, the custodians were at schools plowing and shoveling to ensure it was safe to come back. They do a phenomenal job over the summer to make our schools look beautiful and ready to take on the new school year.

Library staff helps children find those books that broaden their horizons, as well as helping teachers find the materials to help children. Those employees who work with technology help educators step up their lessons and integrate technology to develop 21st century students.  I am eternally grateful for our “Technology Goddess” at my school.  She has saved me on more occasions than I care to remember.

One of the most important heroes is the teacher assistant. These incredible individuals are there to support teachers, but as I am quickly finding out, they are there for the children and do so much more than assist teachers. Teachers must meet the needs of all of our students; including our gifted students, struggling learners, English Language Learners and Special Needs students. Teacher assistants make this difficult yet rewarding task a little easier for teachers. Mrs. Longo, my colleague and co-teacher, I thank you for absolutely EVERYTHING you do to help me and our students.

If I could describe all the people who make a difference in a child’s life, I would need an entire newspaper. Nurses take care of students and teachers. School Resource Officers and security specialists keep the entire school safe.

It does take a village to educate a child. Public education would not be the same if we did not have these dedicated, hard working employees impacting our children. Although classified employees are not always thanked for everything they do, know this: YOU ARE APPRECIATED!  Thank you for your commitment to and love for the children of Prince William County.

Riley O’Casey is a local educator, who teaches middle school social studies. She is also an active member of the Prince William County Education Association. 

© 2013, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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Category: Education, Live & Learn

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