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Posted March 5, 2016

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Supt. Reedy Recognizes EAs

The superintendent, whose mother was an educational assistant, thanks the nearly 2,000 APS EAs who work with students on a daily basis.

As we celebrated Educational Assistants Day this week, I couldn’t help but think about my mother who spent 30 years as an EA supporting children with special needs. Her devotion is what inspired me to become a special education and bilingual teacher.  

Rosenda “Chenda” Benavides always had a soft spot for her students, some of whom called her Mama. She believed in the job, working tirelessly without complaint. It wasn’t an easy job. The children my mom served had severe disabilities, and she did everything from feed and clean them to accompany them on their bus ride home at the end of the day.

She often was seen as an extended member of their families and developed strong connections and lifelong relationships with many of them.  

I remember one child in particular, a special needs student named Alejandra who my mom bonded with just as I was getting ready to leave for college. Each filled a void in the other’s life. I was reminded of this wonderful relationship as I watched the EA video tribute posted to featuring Jessie Ornales, an EA at Desert Ridge Middle School who returned to the job after her husband died to work one-on-one with a student with special needs. As tears welled in her eyes, Jessie describes the girl as her “salvation.” “I love her to pieces,” she said.

Jessie and the other two EAs featured in the video, Mary Lou Maestas of Lew Wallace Elementary School and Elizabeth Summers of Volcano Vista High School, are among the nearly 2,000 EAs we have in APS who dedicate their time, care and attention to students who truly depend on them.

EAs are the unsung heroes of public education, and I have always valued their input. After all, they, more than anyone, know what children need, where they come from, what their situation is. They have a wealth of information and great knowledge. They develop meaningful relationships with their students and families.

We can learn much from our EAs. They are an invaluable part of our schools. Educational Assistants Day is certainly worth celebrating, but I hope they know they are appreciated every single day. I think them for the difference they make in the lives they touch.

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