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Teacher Aides Make A Difference For Clarence Students

Teacher Aides Make A Difference For Clarence Students
Updated

From helping teachers in the classroom to developing the skills and confidence of students across grade levels, teacher aides play a key role in the school community of the Clarence Central School District.

Teacher aides spoke about their work as the district looks to add new members to its teacher aide ranks. Beyond the family friendly scheduling, including summers off, as well as the health and state retirement benefits, teacher aides spoke to the value they found in helping students reach their full potential. 

More information about becoming a teacher aide can be found by filling out an application at https://www.clarenceschools.org/departments/human-resources/jobcareer-opportunities/non-instructional-application.

‘It’s More than Academics’

Teacher Aide Christine Rich-Reese

The joyful work of teacher aide and TCI trainer Christine Rich-Reese spans across the halls of Harris Hill Elementary School, from working with students, running the school’s after school Club Invention as well as operating the school’s store. The throughline between these and other efforts she undertakes is connecting with students.

“It’s more than academics,” she said. “When we can create moments for enhancing the whole person's development, that’s why we do what we do.”

The former pre-K teacher and childcare center director first began working as an aide to improve her work-life balance and to support her children’s development. Though she initially planned to later return to private sector work, Rich-Reese said the health and pension benefits made the role a good fit.

“I may get better pay, but not those benefits,” she said.

Over her 18 years in the district, Rich-Reese has had the joy of seeing students she’s supported find success. That can include seeing a student she assisted with reading as a first grader being able to read aloud in front of the entire school at an assembly. She also has a former student return to work at the school store through Clarence High School’s Career Development and Occupational Studies program, who beamed with joy when students asked him to sign their yearbook. 

“There’s always opportunities outside the classroom to grow and connect with students,” she said.

‘There’s Never a Dull Moment’

Teacher Aide Kelli Farrell

Before you see teacher aide Kelli Farrell in a classroom or in the halls of Sheridan Hill Elementary School, you may find her at the start of the day outside the building, greeting students on Tuesdays while dancing in a tutu.

The music at the start of the day was something Farrell pitched to the school’s leadership to cheer students, and has been met with enthusiasm.

“We’re all really encouraging whether it’s personal or school-related.” Farrell said. “Everyone here steps up and helps each other to make things better for the kids.”

Farrell, who also serves as a TCI coach has worked in the district for eight years, first working as a substitute in multiple buildings as the timing fit with her family. 

“I was looking for a job that would be flexible,” she said. Benefits like health insurance for aides also helped make the job viable for Farrell and her family.

Transitioning to the aide role, Farrell said she relished the chance to see students’ make discoveries in the classroom.

“To see their growth and their eyes light up when they learn something, that’s what motivates me,” she said.

Farrell’s work can include working individually with students with learning and physical challenges to assisting physical education teachers in helping students manage their competitiveness in games.

“They cheer each other on, and it melts my heart,” she said. “They’re excited for each other.”

Among the highlights Farrell described was working with students across the building, and seeing their growth across their years.

“There’s never a dull moment,” she said. “There’s always something to do.”

‘So Many Opportunities To Make a Difference’

Teacher Aide Angela Ellis

Attitude is everything for teacher aide Angela Ellis in her work with students as a teacher aide at the kindergarten level. In her second year, she said small areas of growth each day can create big differences for students over the course of a year.

“There’s so many opportunities to make a difference for students and classrooms if you go in with the right attitude and take advantage of the opportunities to learn and grow,” she said.

Ellis, who has a master’s degree in counseling and previous work experience as a substitute teacher and with children in a psychiatric care setting, said she considered the role as a way to match her schedule with her five children, with the youngest currently attending the school.

“The flexibility and having the same schedule as they do was really important,” Ellis said.

Her day-to-day work of supporting her classroom teacher can include preparing work assignments, setting up the room for activities and providing additional learning support for students in the classroom.

“It’s never the same day,” she said.

Ellis said she enjoyed working with her colleagues, as well as the opportunity to support students in their development. That can be in seeing students who struggled holding a crayon now being able to write and draw confidently, or helping students grow from struggling to write sentences to writing full paragraphs.

“If you look for the ways you’re helping, it makes your day go better and it helps everyone around you be happier,” she said. “I get to be with these kids, I get to watch them grow and do things they couldn’t do before.” 

‘This Building is Just Like a Family’

Teacher Aide Kathleen Moriarity

Clarence Center Elementary School has been a fixture in the life of teacher aide Katherine Moriarity’s life. Her principal as a student, Jack Bartlett, became her boss when she started a now 36-year career as an aide at the school. Her children “thrived” when they attended the school, she said, and now her granddaughter is a student at the school.

“This building is just like a family,” she said. “I loved it from the first year I started.”

Moriarity said she started in the role as her daughters began attending school, and found the hours matched her family life. Benefits like the district’s health insurance and state retirement also helped make the role appealing.

“The hours were perfect, the schedule was perfect,” she said. “It all fit.”

Three decades later, she has worked at every grade level in the building, forging relationships in the school that extend to seeing past students when she’s out in the community. Though challenges change each year, Moriarity said she found fulfillment in seeing students grow and succeed.

“It’s great knowing you’re a part of helping a student, a classroom or a teacher get kids to where they need to be and help them to achieve progress,” she said.

Moriarity said she appreciated the opportunity to assist beyond her role, from helping to plan beloved events like the school’s Flag Day celebration or annual fifth grade camping trip, to even helping a student with a disability to fulfill their dream of playing a varsity sport. That meant traveling to practices and games with the student for two seasons to support their participation.

“That was one of my biggest accomplishments, helping him do what he wanted to do and live out his dream,” she said.

Moriarity spoke positively about the role for those considering becoming an aide. Even after 36 years as a teacher aide, Moriarity said she thought she still had a few more years she wanted to stay in the role.

“It pulls you in,” she said. “The friendships, the camaraderie you build with the community, you get to know them. You make strong connections.”

More information about becoming a teacher aide can be found by filling out an application at https://www.clarenceschools.org/departments/human-resources/jobcareer-opportunities/non-instructional-application.

Teacher Aide Christine Rich-Reese
Teacher Aide Kelli Farrell
Teacher Aide Angela Ellis
Teacher Aide Kathleen Moriarity