Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has declared Jan. 21-27, 2024 as Paraprofessional Recognition Week. In Osseo Area Schools, Education Support Professionals (ESPs) serve in multiple settings, including support for instruction, student activities, and individual students, as well as numerous other tasks that contribute to educational success.
Jackie Palmer, an ESP at North View Middle School (NVMS), sums it up best: “Schools couldn’t do it without us.”
Osseo Area Schools relies on ESPs to perform a variety of critical tasks to ensure schools run smoothly and students get the support they need.
Osseo Area Schools has more than 800 ESPs in its buildings, and the district is grateful for the contributions of each. In honor of Paraprofessional Recognition Week, we are shining a spotlight on just a few ESPs who contribute to the betterment of the schools they work in.
Jessica Kalisch is a dedicated ESP in the Osseo Area Schools Kidstop school-age care program.
Kalisch splits her workday between Kidstop before and after school care at Elm Creek Elementary and Fernbrook Elementary Schools. As a greeter, Kalisch is the first friendly face everyone sees at the beginning and end of each school day. “I greet everyone by name,” she said. Her warm demeanor and eagerness to greet students, families, and staff speak to her passion for uplifting students, letting them know they are capable and encouraging them to strive for anything they want to be.
In a typical workday, Kalisch works to help students problem solve and feel safe in a nurturing school environment. She also supports the Kidstop program by running reports and replenishing supplies. “There is so much variety in my role,” she said.
“If you enjoy working with kids, it’s a job to apply for,” she encouraged. “Each day is a new adventure.”
As a long-time Kidstop staff member (Kalish’s career with the district spans three decades), a highlight for Kalisch has always been working during the district’s summer programs in her role to support students during field trips. Kalisch said the field trips are a great way for staff to get to know students through shared experiences in the community.
Stephanie Halverson-Oak View Elementary School
Stephanie Halverson, an ESP at Oak View Elementary School, works each day to help students succeed. She has served on the academic intervention team since 2018, working with students in all grades on academic intervention groups for reading.
Before joining the academic intervention team at Oak View, Halverson worked in public administration and as a corporate trainer. She started volunteering at Rush Creek Elementary School when her children attended there, feeling a call to help out.
“As I was building my own family I could see that the needs of our kids were growing, so I started volunteering to support reading interventions. There really is nothing better than watching a child connect the dots on learning skills,” Halverson said.
From greeting students at the beginning of the day to being available for social-emotional learning during five minute passing times, Halverson works to support students one-on-one. A highlight for her is sharing students’ progress with them each week during intervention sessions to celebrate and affirm their hard work.
“That's what most of our ESPs feel passionate about, is closing the gaps for our students. Our licensed staff is tied to their classroom team, where we are able to move throughout all of our grades in the building,” Halverson said. “It is fabulous to be able to have five minutes to sit with a child in the hallway and try to help them regulate when they are upset.”
Halverson enjoys working at Oak View because the staff act as family and support each other. She has found they are all very passionate about advancing student voices, teaching and allowing them to advocate for themselves.
“There are places and spaces for people that are feeling little voices of calling and wondering if there is a place for them in our school system to support our students. There are so many opportunities, and I would just encourage people to reach out to their local schools if you feel like you want a new career,” Halverson said.
Mary Anne Maurer and Jackie Palmer-North View Middle School (NVMS)
If you visit NVMS, you’re likely to be greeted by two friendly faces: Mary Ann Maurer and Jackie Palmer, the two administrative ESPs who run the school’s front office.
Maurer has spent the past nine years at NVMS and 15 years at Cedar Island Elementary before that.
“I enjoy it so much,” Maurer said of her job. “I should be retired right now, but I’m still here because I love all the people here.”
Jackie Palmer spent two years at NVMS about a decade ago, then returned to the school after working at another district building for a few years.
“I love it here, we’re like a family,” she said. “We like to create a calm, welcoming atmosphere here in the office.”
In the front office, Maurer and Palmer complete a variety of tasks that are critical in ensuring the smooth operation of a school, including interacting with students and families, managing attendance counts, ensuring school safety with visitor check-ins, securing substitute teachers to cover staff absences, helping schools communicate effectively with families through e-newsletters and other methods, and more. The pair noted that fellow ESPs Kim Sturdy and Brenda Roberts are also integral to the success of the NVMS office.
Maurer and Palmer credit NVMS’s collaborative environment and compassionate leadership for the school’s success, along with the support from all the school’s ESPs.
“ESPs are amazing people,” Palmer said. “We do so much and don’t complain, we just get things done. It all takes teamwork.”
Rob Stout-Fair Oaks Elementary
Rob Stout began his career as an educator before moving into the corporate world for most of his working years. He retired around the time of the COVID-19 pandemic and heard stories of decreasing math and reading scores among many young people in the wake of the pandemic, so he decided to dust off his teacher’s cap and try to make a difference by jumping back into the education world as an ESP at Fair Oaks Elementary.
“I loved teaching, it’s probably what I should have done my whole life,” Stout said.
Stout now spends 30 hours a week helping students who are working to get up to grade level in reading and math skills, and he also jumps into classrooms during work time to help support students with questions.
“The kids are just so enjoyable to be around and eager to learn,” he said. “They’re making great strides, and at the end of the day I feel like I’ve made a difference in kids’ lives. It’s just so rewarding, there’s no other way to describe it.”
Stout said Fair Oaks Elementary is a fantastic school with an extremely talented, dedicated staff, and it felt like the right fit for him right away. Where he used to work 70-80 hours per week in the corporate world, he now says his six-hour days fly by.
“Everybody in this school just pulls together, it’s absolutely amazing and I’ve never experienced anything like it. It’s just a great place to be.”
“He is a champion for our students and such a positive influence at Fair Oaks,” said Cheryl Piotraschke, a teacher at the school.
Thank you to all of our ESPs for all that they do for our students each day. Interested in joining our team? Visit the careers website for more information.