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Thank you, PSRPs!

Today we recognize your dedication to students

Dear IFT PSRP member,

Today is PSRP Day in Illinois! Every third Wednesday in November, we celebrate this day and show our gratitude to the more than 100,000 dedicated paraprofessionals and school-related personnel like you who provide essential services in classrooms, school and campus offices, cafeterias, school buses, and more.

We know your work ensures that our schools and institutions run smoothly and efficiently. You keep students safe in healthy, productive learning environments. And now during this dangerous time, many of you are being asked to risk your own health to provide student services. You do this because you put the kids’ needs above your own. 

During my long teaching career, I was honored to work with so many amazing PSRPs. Their efforts on behalf of students reached far beyond our schools. One of those PSRPs was Nora Waliczek, and I want to tell you her inspiring story.

Nora’s son was struggling with reading. As a teacher aide, Nora understood there may be many reasons for his difficulties, including vision problems. Though her son had received a basic vision screening at school, she requested a complete optometrist’s exam. The result? They found a vision issue that was interfering with his learning.

Undetected reading problems can cause many challenges for students and schools. Schools need to provide remediation, and students affected by vision problems have higher drop-out rates and their future employment can be affected. 

As a leader in her local school’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA), Nora set out to inform parents, teachers, and administrators about the inadequacies of school-provided vision screenings. The Illinois PTA passed a resolution supporting comprehensive eye exam legislation, but she couldn’t get traction with it among lawmakers. Nora also joined with another activist to found the Vision First Foundation to provide parents with support. 

As an active union member in the West Suburban Federation of Teachers (Local 571) and a delegate to our House of Representatives, Nora brought her case for legislation to the union. Our local’s PSRP committee worked with the IFT to bring a resolution to our union’s 2006 IFT Convention to address the vision screening issue. The resolution called for a required comprehensive eye and vision exam for all children entering kindergarten in Illinois as a prerequisite to academic learning. 

The resolution became part of the IFT’s legislative platform. Working together, IFT staff and legislators created Senate Bill 641, Student Vision Examinations.

Thanks to Nora’s support, advocacy, and persistence, the bill became law during the 95th General Assembly. Her efforts ensured that future generations of children entering Illinois public schools would be ready to learn when they entered the classroom without undetected vision problems.

This is just one inspiring PSRP story, and there are countless others.

So today on this special day, I want to thank all our incredible PSRPs. Your efforts, both large and small, make a huge difference every day for our students. 

On behalf of the IFT, please accept our grateful thanks – today and every day – for being a powerful voice for our children. 

In gratitude and solidarity,

Jane Russell, IFT Secretary-Treasurer

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