Governor Lamont Announces Dawn Dickau Is Connecticut’s 2024 Anne Marie Murphy Paraeducator of the Year
(SOUTHINGTON, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont, Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz, and Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker today made a surprise visit to Joseph A. DePaolo Middle School in Southington to announce that one of the school’s educators – Dawn Dickau – has been named Connecticut’s 2024 Anne Marie Murphy Paraeducator of the Year.
Inspired by how special education benefited her son and her family, Dickau embarked on her journey in education in 2015, initially supporting students on the autism spectrum at South End Elementary School. For three years, she provided invaluable special education support before transitioning to John F. Kennedy Middle School in August 2018. In November 2019, Dickau's mission led her to William H. Hatton Elementary School, where she began assisting a student with a visual impairment.
To better guide her student’s transition to Joseph A. DePaolo Middle School, Dickau taught herself Braille, enhancing her ability to support the student’s access to academics and the arts, including participating in the Silver Star Band. Dickau actively seeks professional development opportunities, collaborates with teachers, and initiated a Braille Day in the classroom to educate other students. Her advocacy transcends school grounds, as she also played a pivotal role in installing caution signs near her student’s home.
“Paraeducators provide an incredible amount of support to learners, and their dedication and support lays the foundation for student success,” Governor Lamont said. “Ms. Dickau’s recognition as Connecticut’s 2024 Anne Marie Murphy Paraeducator of the Year is richly deserved. Her tireless commitment and invaluable contributions to DePaolo Middle School are an inspiration to us all. Congratulations to Ms. Dickau and to all paraeducators for their exceptional work in nurturing and guiding their students towards a brighter future.”
“Each day of the school year, students are learning life skills, building social-emotional awareness, and learning the necessary coping skills that will help set them up for success in later life,” Lt. Governor Bysiewicz said. “But each of our students learn differently and bring with them different obstacles and difficulties to overcome. That’s why paraeducators are vital to our state’s school systems, and even more vital to the students they serve. They provide incredible value to a classroom in a way that goes beyond just typical academics and offer the support needed to close achievement gaps. Congratulations to Dawn Dickau on this incredible achievement, and for all the work you do for every student that comes in your path.”
“Paraeducators are an integral part of the education system who work closely with teachers and other professionals to provide critical support to our students with unique and diverse needs,” Commissioner Russell-Tucker said. “Congratulations to Dawn Dickau, an exemplary paraeducator, whose story serves as an inspiration to us all. The passion and dedication she has shown for her student serve as an example of how vital an asset paraeducators are to their students, their students' families, and their communities.”
“Dawn embraced the opportunity to work and learn alongside her student,” Robert Garry, principal of Hatton Elementary School, said. “She went above and beyond the typical expectations for a paraprofessional in her support of her student and soon became his mentor, coach, and friend. Dawn rarely took credit for her student’s growth and successes, but we all owe her a debt of gratitude for her amazing efforts. Her work is an outstanding example of the powerful impact a dedicated educator can have on the life of a student.”
“One of the most important roles of a paraeducator is finding the correct balance between assisting students and encouraging them to complete tasks independently,” Chris Palmieri, principal of DePaolo Middle School, said. “Dawn does an exceptional job of knowing when to step in and provide support for her student and when to challenge him to be self-sufficient. Thanks to all of Dawn’s efforts, her student had a flawless transition from elementary to middle school. She is a phenomenal addition to our DePaolo Middle School family.”
The Anne Marie Murphy Paraeducator of the Year Program recognizes one paraeducator who has demonstrated exceptional skill and dedication in their role, thereby earning the respect and admiration of students, teachers, administrators, coworkers, and parents. Paraeducators assist certified teachers in the classroom and play an integral role in developing students’ academic, social, and emotional skills.
In March 2013, the Connecticut State Department of Education and the School Paraprofessional Advisory Council renamed the Connecticut Paraeducator of the Year Award to the Anne Marie Murphy Paraeducator of the Year Award in honor of Anne Marie Murphy, a special education paraprofessional who lost her life in the December 14, 2012, tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Dawn Dickau will be recognized again in November at the Connecticut Teacher of the Year ceremony, along with the 2024 Connecticut Teacher of the Year and district Teachers of the Year.