Heartspring has long had a referral bonus program for employees who refer applicants who are hired as paraeducators. Employees are encouraged to only refer people they would want to work with their own kids, and people they know they could count on to come to work and be here for the kids.
When Julie Hughes, lead para in classroom S122, referred Stephanie Taylor, she took this advice seriously. Stephanie had some experience working at facilities helping adults with disabilities, but not as much with children. Julie told Heartspring staff recruiter Leea Thompason, “I know she’ll give 100% and if she doesn’t work out you can fire me, too!” Julie says she knew that Stephanie would be a complete asset to Heartspring and would be very dedicated. “I knew she’d have the kids’ best interest in mind.”
Stephanie did indeed work out, and has been promoted to the lead para position in classroom S124. Taylor Jahnke, a paraeducator in that classroom says, “There are so many things to like about Stephanie. She’s a great lead because she puts the kids first. She’s definitely here for these kiddos.”
Stephanie is quick to say what she likes about working with Heartspring students. “It’s the little things, like when someone learns your name,” she said. "You have to be able to accept small things as a large reward." When asked for an example Stephanie talked about teaching a student to tie a shoe. “You have to be able to celebrate the steps along the way, like the first time they make the loop.”
Stephen Perry, Director of Education Services, says that Stephanie’s work ethic demonstrates that she takes her job seriously and realizes how important this work is. He pointed out that Stephanie takes initiative and is a great extension of the teacher in the classroom. “It comes across very clearly that Stephanie cares about the kids,” he said “Stephanie is always here, on time, and doesn’t complain. She’s a great example.”
Staff members aren’t the only ones who like working with Stephanie. Students in her classroom also think she’s pretty great. "I like working with Stephanie because she always tells me funny stories, like the time that she got scared of a pigeon on her front deck, which made me laugh," said student Matthew.
Recently, Stephanie’s brother was in town from out of state. She wanted him to come to Heartspring to see who she works with, what she does and how important it is. When asked why she thinks this work is so important she says, “Because I’ve worked with adults who didn’t get this training. I want these kids to have better opportunities. We can make a difference in whether or not they are able to become productive citizens or be institutionalized. No matter the level of abilities, I want these kids to reach their full potential.”
With staff like Stephanie, they will.