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Sandra Hamelin Named Canton’s Paraeducator of the Year

August 29, 2016 Community, Schools No Comments

By John Fitts

CANTON — In working with students who face significant challenges, Sandra Hamelin is a key part of Cherry Brook Primary School’s education system.

But Hamelin, now entering her 10th year as a paraprofessional, will tell you she is often the one receiving an education.

“I think my students have taught me as much as I have taught them,” said Hamelin.

On Monday, during a back-to-school convocation for staff, school officials announced that Hamelin has received the honor of being the district’s Anne Marie Murphy Paraeducator of the Year Award for 2016-2017. Named for a paraeducator who was killed at Sandy Hook in December of 2012. The honor lauds those who show special dedication and service in non-certified positions, specifically the supportive roles that encompass the paraprofessional realm.

For the past several, Hamelin has worked one-to-one with a student with multiple challenges that require her to utilize occupational therapy, speech and motor and physical therapy skills, said Cherry Brook Principal Andrew Robbin.

Robbin said Hamelin is always willing to learn, brightens “everyone’s day,” is highly skilled and adapts instruction to make sure the learning environment is inclusive for her students and the entire classroom.

“Patient, kind, loving and skilled, Sandy puts her heart and soul into her work,” Robbin said. “As a result, she has strong relationships with the entire class. She routinely works with all students in the classroom and is an integral part of the classroom community. She is a team player and a delight to work with. The compassion that Sandy exhibits each day is truly a pleasure to watch and we are lucky to have Sandy as part of our community.”

Hamelin said she was surprised by the honor.

“When I first learned that I was recipient of this award I was truly shocked and overwhelmed,” she said. “I kept asking why me? Every para in this room works hard at their job. They’re very good at what they do.”

Hamelin worked in the insurance industry for 10 years before taking a break from the work force to raise her family. With just an associate’s degree in business, she said she felt she might not be up to the task. However, she had volunteered at her daughters’ school. Robbin, she said, “took a chance on me.”

When I applied for this job Andy basically hired mom,” she said.

Hamelin’s husband Michael and daughters, Anna and Laura, were in attendance. Each, she said, learned differently. But she encouraged them to “work hard, do your best every day, be the best person you can be and good things will come your way.”

And both have found success on their own paths, Hamelin said.

Hamelin said those words were ones she tried to live by in her second career.

She acknowledged that not every day was a good one but said the support from her family, the school and her co-workers has been amazing.

She also reiterated how much she’s learned from her young students.  Like many in her field, Hamelin has worked with students who have challenges, such including learning disabilities, aspergers, autism, down syndrome and ADHD.

“I’ve learned patience and understanding,” she said. “I’ve come to appreciate how hard it can be for these students just to get through each day and appreciate that they really do their best every day. I worked hard, did my best and good things have certainly come to me.”

Also on Monday, school officials announced that Beth Dropick is the 2016-2017 teacher of the year for Canton. See that story here.

For a contact sheet view or full-screen version of this and other galleries, visit https://johnfitts.smugmug.com. Prints and/or digital downloads can also be purchased at that link.

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