Skip to Content

Education Support Professionals - Something to Teach

Education support professionals school students in life skills.

By John Rosales



Students Chantel Campbell (left) and Jason Henderson (right) work as bank tellers with Lorraine Synder.

Photo by Earl Dotter

Lorraine Synder doesn’t look like a banker or business instructor. She doesn’t wear pinstripe suits with shiny shoes or sport a corporate name badge. But she and her student tellers at Great Mills High School in Maryland operate a school bank that serves hundreds of customers—mostly students and school staff. From breaking $20s to managing a $10,000 deposit after a school dance, it’s a million-dollar business, Synder says.

Synder, a high school financial assistant, participates in a landmark program at Great Mills in which education support professionals (ESPs) serve as mentors to students, teaching them on-the-job and life skills. “I try to teach them work values,” she says.

She also evaluates the students, tracking their attendance and performance, and collaborates with a teacher who assigns them a grade.

At schools across the country like Great Mills, ESPs in student health, food service, maintenance, and other departments work one-on-one with students, who earn academic or community service credit toward graduation.

Jason Henderson, a senior at Great Mills, says his banking experience helps him in his personal life.

“It’s helped me out a lot with my own finances,” he says.

Another thing about Synder:

Most bankers don’t call their customers “hon,” or bake cupcakes to commemorate tellers’ birthdays. She does, for all 15 of her student tellers.

Grandma Etrata’s 1,800 Kids

At Great Mills’s nursing station, Nancy Etrata is ready to treat, counsel, and maybe just talk.

“As much as I love nursing, I hope the students know I care about their health as well as their performance in the classroom,” says Etrata, a licensed practical nurse who has worked full-time at the school for nine years.

In her cramped office, Etrata has the type of memento that many ESPs treasure: a large board packed with photos of students.

“One called me Saturday night,” says Etrata. “Her sister was having a baby.”

Twelfth-grader Aida Trice is a student aide in the nurse station where she works for an hour a day Monday through Friday.

“She’s more than just a nurse,” Trice says of Etrata. “She's like a grandma, someone you want to tell stories to."

Trice says working with Etrata has inspired her to go into the medical field after college. She's already learned how to treat bloody noses, scraped knees, cramping, and other everyday student emergencies.

Be on Time! And Mind Your Manners!

Students who work for Robert Armstrong in the school maintenance department spend their service learning hours recycling trash and polishing floors. And they always get more than they bargained for from Armstrong, a 20-year veteran.

“My job is not just about buffing floors,” says Armstrong, building services manager. “It’s about relationships and helping these kids succeed in school and in life.”

Above all, Armstrong wants to help the 10–15 students he guides each semester become responsible citizens. Teaching them the value of a good work ethic is not in his job description, but Armstrong shares a commitment to students with Synder, Etrata, and other ESPs at Great Mills—namely, he cares.

Armstrong is always proud to see them get that diploma, he says, with a big smile. One student from the class of 2006 sent Armstrong a framed copy of his diploma and a photo, which occupy pride of place next to Armstrong’s computer.

“It’s one of my prized possessions,” he says. “I tell kids, “You see—here’s one I helped.”

Published in:

Published In