The 2024 Delaware Educational Support Professional of the Year will be announced Dec. 5.

2024 Educational Support Pro of the Year named Dec. 5

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Education

The 2024 Delaware Educational Support Professional of the Year will be announced Dec. 5.

The 2024 Delaware Educational Support Professional of the Year will be announced Dec. 5.

One education support professional will be chosen Dec. 5 as the state’s best out of the 19 chosen by school districts and one charter school.

This is the fourth year the Department of Education has recognized a State Educational Support Professional of the Year.

“Educational support professionals’ roles vary greatly,” said Mark Holodick, secretary of education. “They provide one-on-one support to students in the classroom. They safely transport children to and from school. They keep our buildings clean and safe. They provide nutritious meals so our children have the focus and energy to learn. They keep our offices running. They support the technological needs of classrooms. And so much more.”

Their work is often behind the scenes, he said, and rarely do they get recognized for how important they are to the success of Delaware’s schools.

Support professionals include paraprofessionals, custodial staff, secretaries, nutritional staff, information technology staff, bus drivers and bus aides.

“Each of these employees and the many colleagues they represent across our state deserve our gratitude,” he said.

This year’s nominees are:

Appoquinimink: Ingrid Coria, paraprofessional at Everett Meredith Middle School

Brandywine: Crystal Day, administrative assistant at Concord High School

Caesar Rodney: Sinead Ronan, paraprofessional/library specialist at Magnolia Middle School

Cape Henlopen: Gilbert Maull, instructional paraprofessional at Rehoboth Elementary School

Capital: Mary Simpers, Title I paraprofessional at Hartly Elementary School

Charter Network: Craig Aukamp, athletic trainer/support professional at the Charter School of Wilmington

Christina: Khiry Henderson, custodian/maintenance at the Eden Support Service Center

Colonial: Nicole C. Gebhart, senior lead field technician at the Colonial Operations Building

Delmar: Bethany Copeland, paraprofessional at Delmar Middle School

Indian River: Michelle Gates, guidance secretary at Georgetown Middle School

Lake Forest: Michele Schoof, paraprofessional/social emotional learning at Lake Forest East Elementary School

Laurel: Michael D. Snead, behavioral paraprofessional at Laurel Elementary School

Milford: Christa Henderson, instructional support paraprofessional at Lulu Ross Elementary School

New Castle County Vo-Tech: Pamela Wise-Bowen, guidance secretary at Delcastle Technical High School

Polytech: Elaine Balcerak, paraprofessional at Polytech High School

Red Clay Consolidated: Neil Patel, help desk support analyst at the Information Technology Office

Seaford: Vincent T. Evans, Jr., dean of students at Seaford Middle School

Smyrna: Lisa Haywood, paraprofessional, Smyrna High School

Sussex Tech: Shannon Brown, paraprofessional at Sussex Technical High School

Woodbridge: Rommel Ongaco, child nutrition manager at Phillis Wheatley Elementary School

A selection committee is in the process of reviewing the nominees’ applications, and the state honoree will be announced at a celebration the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 5 in Dover.

The event will be live-streamed via the Department of Education’s YouTube and Facebook shortly after 7 p.m.

Each nominee receives a $2,000 personal award from the winner’s district or charter school. 

The state winner will serve as the 2024 Delaware’s Educational Support Professional of the Year and will receive an additional $3,000 personal award from the Department of Education as well as $5,000 to be used for the educational benefit of his or her students, for a grand total of $10,000.

This year’s state winner will take over the title from 2023 Delaware Educational Support Professional of the Year Heather Hitchens, a paraprofessional at Lake Forest Central Elementary School.

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