April 14, 2021 – Cheryl Hartley says she didn’t choose her job. It chose her.
The Crown Point Elementary School paraprofessional started out as a crossing guard at the school, hoping to get her foot in the door in a law enforcement career.
But she ended up getting her foot in the door into the world of education. While a crossing guard at Crown Point, Hartley was offered different positions at the school. As she accepted her new roles, Hartley discovered a love for Crown Point and for students.
Flash forward several years and several positions later, Hartley is now a classroom reading paraprofessional…and Duval County Public School’s “2021 School-Related Employee of the Year.”
“I am still trying to get over the shock,” says Hartley, who points out she was up against a group of other outstanding employees.
While Hartley is shocked that she was awarded this designation, those who nominated her are not.
“Her passion and dedication to help others is so inspiring,” wrote Principal Brett Hartley (no relation to Cheryl Hartley) in his nomination letter. “Hartley’s love for children shows every day. Students at Crown Point adore her and always smile when they see her.”
Principal Hartley says Cheryl Hartley’s role is to lead small reading groups of kindergarten through second-grade students. But he notes that she goes over and beyond her role for the students and staff at the school. A few examples include:
- After hearing that some of the students needed bicycles a few years ago, Hartley took the initiative to find individuals who could donate bikes and present them to the children during the holiday season.
- Hartley went the extra mile in contacting students who did not initially participate in online learning last spring. In addition to calling and emailing families, Hartley also made home visits.
- A talented artist, Hartley uses her skills to brighten the hallways. This year, she helped decorate the front entry way, and assisted many teachers with decorating their doors.
“Ms. Hartley is always ready to jump in and help, whether in the cafeteria, during afternoon dismissal or even pulling students for reading mastery,” said fourth-grade teacher, Jennifer Evans.
Evans says Hartley can draw just about anything, and her artwork supports student learning by promoting a welcoming environment for children. These include “rocks of encouragement” she created for staff at the school.
“She is a blessing to our students and our entire school family,” wrote Evans.
For Hartley, all this recognition and honor is affirmation that though her journey to the classroom was unexpected, it was the right path.
“I get to see children’s educational growth,” said Hartley. “Seeing those moments when something just ‘clicks’ is an unexplainable delight. To know I am part of that process fills me with joy.”
If she had to do it over, Hartley said she would choose this unexpected path again, and again and again.
Nominees for the 2021 School-Related Employee of the Year include:
- Requitta Bell – Timucuan Elementary – Paraprofessional
- Anthony Carter – School Police
- Kelly Davis – Mandarin High – Secretary III
- Jennifer Erixton – Dinsmore Elementary – Secretary/Bookkeeper
- Fawne Fordenbacher – San Pablo Elementary – School Office Assistant
- Kabrina McCormick – Palm Avenue Exceptional Student Center – Paraprofessional
- Christina Moore – Thomas Jefferson Elementary – Paraprofessional
- Glorivette Rivera – San Jose Elementary – Paraprofessional
- Noemi Vasquez – Alden Road Exceptional Student Center – Paraprofessional