I was the manager of an Amoco gas station before I worked for the school district. A customer came in one day and told me that I should apply for a job in the school system. I started off in food services and then became a custodial worker.
Going to association meetings, I felt there was a need for education support professionals to have more of a voice. I didn’t realize that it was going to be my voice, but I’m glad that it was. I’m very passionate about what I do. It’s important for every student and teacher who walks through our schools to have a clean and safe environment. One school should not be better off than another.
When I first became a member, I learned a lot about how to advocate and recruit members. And the more I became involved, the more I wanted to do more. I started attending conferences through NEA and meeting members in different states. When I saw what was happening in their states, it really opened my eyes. So, when I ran to be director of GAE’s Education Support Professionals, I saw a real need to lift up their voices and work across the state. In 2012, I was chosen from 300 applicants to serve in the NEA Leaders for Tomorrow program.
NEA believed in me by investing in our shared future.
I went back to school when I was 50 years old to get my bachelor’s degree and I graduated with honors. There were many times that I wanted to quit, but once I got involved in my classes I couldn’t settle for anything less than an A. I’m glad I went back to school because it landed me my current job as the Skill Trade Supervisor for Dekalb County School District.
I’m the first and only woman to be in this position even though the school district was founded in 1873. I represent 19 schools in our district and I support 100 custodians. The pandemic has been a real challenge for us. I’ve maintained communication with all our custodians so they can give me feedback on what’s happening. I try to make in-person visits to each of my schools twice a month to check equipment and make sure everything is clean and serviceable.
Custodial workers and ESPs are invaluable when it comes to helping with the students’ learning process. When there was an effort to outsource the district’s custodians years ago, we all came together with the local association, the Organization of DeKalb Educators, so that we would be seen as people and not just numbers. Since then, the district has realized how important we are. But it’s important for the district and the schools to continue supporting and providing for all their employees to make sure they feel valued.