Laurie Larsen, a paraeducator in Little Falls, Minnesota is the Minnesota School Employees Association’s recipient of the RISE Award. Laurie has worked in the community of Little Falls, Minnesota as a paraeducator for six years. Staying active in the community and growing her passion for Minnesota School Employees Association has placed her in many roles over the years. She has served as Vice Steward, Building Rep, and is currently serving on the MSEA Board of Directors as Vice-President. Laurie is also a coach for volleyball, basketball and softball. Laurie was nominated by coworkers for her dedication to children, the community and serving those with special needs. “I feel humbled, honored, proud and overwhelmed”.
Laurie’s normal school day requires flexibility and enthusiasm for the student she works with. “My day starts out as a crossing guard. It’s great to meet and greet students in the morning. At 8:15, I welcome one of our ASD students from the bus and help him get to our classroom. There I assist him with breakfast, then we go to DAPE (Developmental Adapted Physical Education) where we do fun activities. After DAPE, we return to the classroom where I assist with academics. I then move to my second student and assist him with Specials (Phys-Ed, Music, Art). My third student I assist in a third-grade classroom. My end of the school day is spent in the resource room where I assist the teacher in whatever she needs or asks of me. Then after my school day I head over to coach whatever sport is in season at the time”.
Laurie provides understanding, acceptance, and trust while maintaining the safety and health of students in various stages of life. “You need to love working with young people. Be patient, kind, loving, practice lots of flexibility and willingness to be a team player”.
As a mother of four boys, Laurie uses her practical skills in her leadership positions and while working with students. “I draw inspiration from my own son who has autism. I gain by raising him and learning from him. With all the knowledge and experience I have obtained, I feel that I have a lot to offer these families and children with special needs”.
“Carol takes great pride in her work. She provides the cleanest and safest environment for learning and comfort to those working at, attending, and visiting George Elementary,” said Katie Schooler, Vice President of PSE Quincy Chapter.
Carol goes out of her way to recognize and commend students for their perseverance and strength of character. Because of her unwavering support of the students in her school, they trust her, seek her out as a confidant, and feel safe with her. She leads by example, supporting staff and giving students an excellent role model.
On Thanksgiving 2018, she helped provide a place of shelter following the serious bus accident on I-90 near George that involved 56 marching band members from the University of Washington. This March, she was awarded the Red Cross Hometown Hero Award for her actions.
“If you were to ask any member of the George Elementary Community about Carol Leibelt, they will tell you that she is the heart and soul of George Elementary School and someone whom you can count on, unconditionally,” said Superintendent John Boyd. “Her selfless response to the needs of others during this disaster and in her work as a custodian at George Elementary are clear evidence that she deserves to be recognized.”
A PSE member for 27 years, Carol serves as her chapter’s treasurer and is a union advocate who supports and works hard for members. In her district, Carol has been named School Employee of the Year four times and Custodian of the Year twice.
Her principal calls her “the most foundational person at our school.” Anne oversees the school’s budget, takes care of personnel, tracks personal days and finds substitutes when needed. She makes sure all the classrooms are in good working order and the right people are on campus at any given time.
When a teacher’s lesson is stalled because of technology issues, they call Anne who quickly gets help so the class can keep learning. When a paraeducator is worried about coverage for a student during a difficult part of the day, they call Anne who figures out how to support that student. When custodial staff run into roadblocks regarding school maintenance, they rely on Anne to help them find a clean space to learn. On her own time, Anne coaches girls softball, where she loves teaching and mentoring students.
Anne is a role model employee and dedicated CSEA member. In addition to receiving the RISE Award, she also been honored as the overall District Classified Employee of the Year and one of CSEA’s 2018 Member of the Year recipients.
Beverly started her career as a social worker before taking time to raise her kids. When she returned to work, it was as a paraeducator, something she expected to do for “one or two years.” Yet here she is, over 12 years later, beloved by students, co-workers and fellow union members, being awarded the 2019 SEIU Local 284 RISE Award.
Beverly works in a level 3 classroom with students in an ASD program, meaning she often gets to see the same students over many years, developing relationships and supporting these students in their growth. As one co-worker shared, Beverly “has an amazing connection with our students.” From giving high fives in the hallway to remembering important dates in student’s lives, it is clear Beverly cares about the education, well-being and happiness of students. In one story highlighted by a co-worker, Beverly saw a student who struggled in the afternoons and made sure to have a joke ready for them when she saw them. The student looked forward to the joke each day, with their behavior improved and they always looked forward to seeing Beverly to get their afternoon started right.
Whether it is a student struggling that Beverly made sure to make time for each day or a co-worker who got sick that Beverly advocated for and checked on while they were out, Beverly is always looking out for others. Her kindness and compassion shine through all that she does.
In addition to her amazing work in the Mounds View Schools, Beverly also is also a union leader, having served on her bargaining team, as a union steward and as a Member Political Organizer (MPO). She was an important leader in in defeating her district’s harmful proposal for involuntary transfers, which would have been detrimental to both students and staff. As unions have been under particularly aggressive attacks the last few years, she has signed up new members, spoken at School Board meetings and led a petition campaign to secure benefits for a co-worker going through a difficult health situation.
Beverly’s work for students and public schools has also extended outside of the classroom as she has worked extensively to help elect pro-public education candidates and has worked at the Capitol to hold them accountable to the promises they’ve made to our schools and students. She has testified in support of education funding and lobbied legislators to make the needed investments in our schools.
When she isn’t working with or fighting for our students, she volunteers at multiple organizations and is involved in fighting for women’s’ and workers’ rights, joining marches and rallies with fellow Minnesotans.
In all her actions, Beverly is fighting for a future where all Minnesota students can reach their full potential. Beverly was the clear choice to receive the 2019 RISE Award. Combining kindness, compassion, hard work and an unwavering commitment to fight for the future she believes in, Beverly is a wonderful ambassador for our union.