Paducah paraeducator named 2021 Educational Support Professional of the Year

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Chiffon Winston, a paraeducator who teaches digital literacy to 1st- through 5th-graders at McNabb Elementary (Paducah Independent), has been awarded the 2021 Educational Support Professional of the Year Award presented by the Kentucky Education Association (KEA).

Picture of a smiling woman in a suit.
Chiffon Winston

As an educational support professional, Winston works with teachers on lesson plans, assists in the classroom with children requiring special needs, helps manage classroom strategies, adapts and administers assessments, collects student data, produces student learning objectives and works with small groups of individual students to reinforce skills and classroom lessons.

“Chiffon demonstrates her creativity when working with children and goes over and beyond her job requirements,” said Terrie White, a 4th-grade teacher at McNabb. “She has created hands-on activities that reteach learned skills to struggling students that not only reaches them academically, but emotionally as well. Chiffon has made it her top priority to build loving and respectful relationships with the children, and they know how much they mean to her. That bond makes them work harder.”

Winston is so dedicated to her students that she will find help outside of the usual channels if that’s where she will find a solution, according to Tammy Hopwood, a teacher at McNabb.

“We had a severely vision-impaired student in 1st grade and I referred her for testing. While we were waiting on testing and help to come, Chiffon took it upon herself to contact a retired teacher who suffered from vision problems,” said McNabb. “Not only did the retired teacher come in to help the student, she even donated a magnifying machine for the student to use.”

Winston is inspired to improve her students, school, community, and profession.

“If you want change, you must be the change you want to see,” said Winston.

For students and parents, she posts Facebook videos that teach parents how to help kids with homework, does private tutoring for struggling students and has created a girl mentoring group that teaches life skills to middle schoolers.

As president of the Paducah Education Support Professionals Association, Winston and fellow education support professionals volunteer at daycare centers and the local Boys and Girls Club. She advocates for public schools and her profession by serving on the site-based decision-making council as a parent representative. She is the past president of the local parent teacher organization; served on the middle school’s advisory council; and currently sits on the board of directors of KEA and the Kentucky Education Support Professionals Association (KESPA) as Junior Ethnic Minority Director.

“I advocate daily for public education, and I want to continue to improve it for our students, our communities and for every person who serves and works in the education community,” said Winston. “I try to be the type of leader I would want to follow.”

The annual award is presented to a KESPA educator who exhibits excellence in five critical areas – professional practice, advocacy for the profession, attention to diversity, community engagement and leadership in professional development. In addition to receiving KEA’s award, Winston received the 2019 Outstanding Support Staff Award from Murray State University.

“Chiffon Winston embodies what a KESPA educator in Kentucky strives to be,” said Eddie Campbell, President of the 40,000-plus education association. “She is dedicated and involved with her students, school, community and profession, and works to make each of them better. She deserves this award for all of the devoted and tireless work she has done for public education.”

A 2014 graduate from Murray State with a bachelor’s degree in integrated studies (elementary education), Winston will accomplish a personal goal in December 2021 when she graduates from Murray with a master’s in teaching.

Winston said she has one final personal goal to achieve for her students.

“I want to create expectations beyond what they can imagine, and provide every child an equal opportunity to learn, grow and thrive,” she said.

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