Angie Manzanares
Paraeducator Julianne Gidney was named one of Granite School District's paraeducators of the year. She poses with her family after receiving the award.

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — Julianne Gidney often looks to the words of Dr. Seuss to inspire the students she works with.

You’re off to great places!

Today is your day!

You’re mountain is waiting.

So get on your way!

Last Friday was indeed a great day for Gidney as she was named one of Granite School District’s paraeducators of the year at the annual district paraeducator conference.

“I love working with students,” said the Title I paraeducator from Monroe Elementary School in West Valley City. “I believe every child can achieve and be successful. I try to help each of the students I work with to understand this.”

Paraeducators are school employees who work with teachers and other professional to provide educational, social and emotional service to students and their families. These services can include one-on-one tutoring, assisting with classroom management, acting as a translator and offering various instructional support.

Two other district paraeducators — Anna Sanders and Sharon Garrett, both from Woodrow Wilson Elementary in South Salt Lake — were also named paraeducators of the year. Both have been with Granite School District for more than 20 years.

These awards have been distributed annually for four years. Those honored with the award are nominated but their school principal and are selected by a committee of Title I professionals from diverse assignments across the district.

“They are identified because of their achievements in improving learning and creating opportunities for students,” said Rob Averett, Granite District resource development director.

Former principal and current assistant superintendent Jim Henderson talked to paraeducators about the important role they play in schools.

Henderson told a story about a struggling student who attended the elementary school in which he was the principal. This student had severe behavioral issues and was routinely sent to the principal’s office.

On one particular day, Henderson commented to a school paraeducator that he was frustrated with the student’s behavior. The paraeducator then told him about the child’s troubled home life. Henderson consequently took a different approach with the student, who eventually corrected his behavior problems and excelled.

“If it weren’t for that paraeducator,” Henderson said, “I wouldn’t have been able to help him. She made the difference.”

Angie Manzanares is a former teacher and journalist. She currently works for the Granite School District as a public relations specialist. Her hobbies include photography, graphic design, dancing and screaming at Jazz games.