Tricia Duhr has spent her career helping people be successful in life. Before becoming an Intervention Specialist for the BRIDGES program at Garfield Middle School six years ago, she worked in the mental health field as a counselor. She made the jump to special needs education because she felt called to work with children to help them develop social and life skills needed to live a fulfilled life. And for six years, she’s been doing just that.
“Simply walk in her classroom and you will observe kids not only learning but also having fun and gaining independence,” says Tricia’s nominator, BRIDGES teacher Amber Rykaceski.
Tricia feeds off her students’ growth and is always looking for ways for them to gain new skills and build self confidence. This year though, she also wanted to find a way to better integrate her students with the rest of the school. So, and Amber came up with the idea of BRIDGES Café, where each Friday the students run a coffee shop – serving the drinks, operating the cash register, even creating the advertising.
While the vocational skills the students are learning with the café will be valuable as the students prepare for life post-school, it is the pride they show that is most impressive.
“Seeing them be proud of themselves, that’s what makes all the hard work worth it,” Tricia says. She has also noticed more positive interaction in the hallways between her students and the rest of the school.
Tricia’s goal has always been to give more to her students then just academics. According to her classroom colleague Amber, she is succeeding: “Ask any parent and they will tell you that Mrs. Duhr has impacted their child in a life-changing, positive way.”
Whenever Karen Holton found herself itching to change jobs when she was younger, the move always brought her to a job with children. It’s what brought her 20 years ago to Lakewood High School as a special education paraprofessional whose preparation for classes and willingness to do anything needed to help a child succeed do not go unnoticed.
“Karen is conscience of her duties for each classroom she is in and takes it seriously,” says Karen’s nominator, LHS paraprofessional Danita Mills. Although Karen helps the teacher in the classroom, she knows her main reason for being in the room is for the students. She is a great support to each student in her classroom.”
Danita singled out Karen for her impeccable notes and knowledge of the subject matter in any of her classrooms. It’s a lot to prepare for since Karen serves anywhere from 3-10 students in any given classroom. She even will take tests ahead of time so she knows how to help her students when it’s their turn for the exam.
Contributing to her students’ success is what makes her job so rewarding, says Karen. “I love seeing their a-ha moments,” she says.
Karen’s presence in the classroom has a noticeable effect on her students. “The students are very happy when she is in the room,” Danita says. That happiness effect is likely a result of one of Karen’s guiding principles on the job: “Try to make every kid smile at least once a day.”