Every third Wednesday in November, we celebrate this day and show our gratitude and appreciation to the more than 100,000 dedicated paraprofessionals, administrative assistants, and other school-related personnel like you who provide critical services in the classroom, school and campus offices, cafeterias, school buses, and more.
We see you. We see you helping our schools and institutions run smoothly. We see you keeping students safe. We see you, and we know your work is exhausting and emotionally taxing. We see you doing more than you are asked or required to do. We see you stand by and for students. We see you putting others' needs before your own. We also see you organizing, and we recognize that we are all in this fight together.
Today I want to focus on the power of our organizing. The IFT is committed to building our union and organizing PSRPs throughout our state. Currently in Illinois, there are more than 20,000 unorganized PSRPs. We see them as well, and we are doing everything in our power to help them become proud IFT members. Recently, we learned about the good news in HIllsboro, where 40 PSRPs have been certified by the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board (IELRB) as new members of our IFT family!
When I learned I would have the great honor to celebrate and thank PSRPs by writing this message, I thought about who I could spotlight. One PSRP in particular inspired me. Her name is Helen Allen, and she is currently president of the Paraprofessional Council of the O'Fallon Federation of Teachers (Local 3939). She has more than 15 years experience in public education. About 10 years ago, she was instrumental in organizing the PSRPs at her worksite. Helen, we see you!
Helen has been a classroom aid and an individual care aid, and she has worked with students of all ages. She currently is the accommodations coordinator who ensures that all students’ needs and accommodations are met. She works with both students and staff to ensure all students’ receive the support and care they deserve. Along with working full time and leading her council, Helen also recently completed her bachelor’s degree with the AFT College Benefits Program. Helen, we see you and support you!
Fortunately, the image and narrative of PSRPs has drastically changed in the past 10 years. No longer is being a PSRP a “stepping stone” to something else. No longer is the work of a PSRP considered secondary or "menial." We know that the work of a PSRP is essential and critical to the success of all students and staff.
We see you Helen and all PSRPs. You are union members, organizers, college students, mothers, fathers, caretakers, and critical workers. You are essential to the world of education and to our union. We value you and the work you do. We would not be where we are as a state federation without you. And we're proud to be fighting with you for a strong union and the future we all deserve.
On behalf of the 103,000 members of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, please accept our gratitude for the role you play in the lives of students. Thank you for being a powerful voice in our union. We see you, PSRPs! And we celebrate you - today and every day.
In unity and gratitude,
Cyndi Oberle-Dahm, IFT Secretary-Treasurer