Five years ago, Lydia started as one of Elim’s paraprofessionals. She spends her days in a classroom in the Autism program, supporting the success of each student she meets. Lydia came to Elim at the age of 19, and according to her, “I had no idea I would stay here for so long, the students here change your life.”
A year ago, Lydia convinced her sister, Priscilla, that she too would be a great paraprofessional. The two girls grew up with twin younger brothers, who have attended Elim for 11 years now. Lydia shares that, “When my brothers were diagnosed with Autism at the age of 3, it was a huge surprise. I was 10 at the time, so I didn’t know a lot about what that meant. Growing up with them meant that coming to work at Elim was a natural transition, and I was able to put that knowledge to work.”
On her first day, Lydia admits that she was very nervous for what was to come, but luckily she was surprised with how great of a team she walked onto. She shared that her team is built on trust, and their respect for each other is what makes them so successful. Even today, this is still what she gives credit to for their classroom dynamic.
At the beginning of the school year, Lydia had a tougher transition than usual. For the first time in four years, the kids who were in class when she started moved up to the next class. Even though she was sad to see them go, she was happy to know how much they have learned over the years. She will still see them in the hall occasionally, and they have no trouble recognizing her and showing their affection. That acknowledgement from them of “you matter” means a lot to Lydia, and she didn’t know how much they had impacted her until they left her room.
Lydia admits that some days of being a paraprofessional are not easy. But she reminds herself that going through the hard days is a must, the students are counting on you to keep them safe and educate them to thrive.
“I have experienced just how much my bothers have grown at Elim. So, when I see a student in the hallway who might be having a bad day, I am sending prayers to the patient staff member with them. As a sibling, I know just how appreciated that patience and that respect is that you are showing them.”
Lydia recalls a student who came to her classroom with some aggressive behaviors. Her team was able to quickly gain mutual respect with him and work with him to counteract that conduct. Now, he is not aggressive, is verbal, and is able to live his full potential at Elim. “It’s crazy to think I had something to do with that progress.”
Just like she convinced her sister join the Elim team, she recommends it to others as well. “I feel that if you have any interest in education, and want an experience different than gen ed, you should try it out. Even if you want to find out something about yourself, Elim has a way of really bringing out who you are and who you need to be.”
“Elim has made me a better person, if these kids were able to touch more people’s lives, those people would learn a lot. Ultimately, when you have a good day with a student, it all is worth it.“