BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — A Unit 5 paraprofessional is one of two Illinoisans representing the state for a national award.

Brigham Early Learning paraprofessional, Susan Naber, helps a student read.

“We couldn’t run this school without our paraprofessionals and our other classified staff,” said Principal Erin O’Grady. “I think it’s really important that they get the recognition they deserve.”

Naber has supported staff and students at the Bloomington school for nine years, which teaches three to five-year-olds.

“Being able to have the opportunity to work in the public with children, specifically in my class who are nonverbal, has been an honor,” said Naber.

Through her work, she received the RISE Award at the state level. Now she’s in the running for the national title. The Recognizing Inspiring School Employees Award is promoted by the U.S. Department of Education.

Learn more about the RISE Award

“This is their first experience in a school environment [and] to take them from here and into their next 12 years of school is a huge honor and to be recognized for that is great,” said Naber.

“It just makes you feel great,” said O’Grady. “This is a hard job and it’s so great to see someone that’s so invested in the kids and their families and the community. Susan does so much for the community as well as Brigham School.”

This week’s CI Hero said her passion for creating a solid learning foundation for youth pushes her to give her best.

“We are enhancing these children’s lives,” said Naber. “We are teaching them to love to learn. We’re teaching them to enjoy life. I just feel that a paraprofessional position is a career. Something that you go into with passion.”

The secretary of education selects a single school employee for the national rise award this spring.

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