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Press Releases

Connecticut State Department of Education News

10/08/2019

Region 9/Redding Elementary School’s James Bairaktaris Named Connecticut's 2020 Anne Marie Murphy Paraeducator of the Year

(REDDING, CT) —State Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona, joined by Region 9 District Superintendent Tom McMorran, Redding Elementary School (RES) Principal Natalie Hammond and other state and local officials, today visited RES to announce that James Bairaktaris has been named the 2020 Anne Marie Murphy Paraeducator of the Year.

As Connecticut’s 2020 Anne Marie Murphy Paraeducator of the Year, Bairaktaris, known to his school community as “Mr. B” and everyone else as “Jaime”, believes that “age does not affect one’s ability to help others as long as they are passionate”. Jaime’s passion for helping others was built during his own childhood by his teachers and paraeducators, and he now strives to instill that same sense of kindness and confidence in his own students. Jamie, a Westport resident, is in his third year at RES which he attended as a student and was initially hired as a cafeteria paraeducator. He now provides support to students in math, assists with students who need 1:1 support, and has been trained to assist behavior technicians. 

“Paraeducators make up the critical foundation necessary for a safe, supportive learning environment that engages students and encourages them to realize their full potential in school and life. Jamie not only accomplishes this in his day-to-day work but has directly contributed to the sense of safety and support within the RES community through the rollout of ‘The Living Room’ project, ensuring students are happy, healthy and ready to learn,” said Commissioner Cardona. “Jaime sums it up best in his own words: paraeducators have the opportunity to change students’ futures and each future created makes this world a better place. Congratulations to Jaime, RES and Region 9 on this very special recognition.”

“No matter the time of day or the number of students Jaime has already worked with on any school day, his patience, good humor, and absolute commitment to the wellbeing of the students is evident.  Jaime is kind, supportive, and calm.  Many children rely on seeing him and working with him as a highlight of their busy school day.  I have on many occasions observed this in the classroom, the cafeteria and the hallway.  It is a pleasure to have Jaime Bairaktaris as a key member of this support staff,” said Superintendent McMorran.

“James Bairaktaris is a gift to the Redding Elementary School community. His unwavering commitment to students’ social-emotional and academic success is evident on a daily basis. He goes above and beyond and always thinks of the students’ best interests when making educational decisions,” said RES Principal Natalie Hammond. “Jaime is a dedicated, committed, hard-working, compassionate, and approachable paraeducator. We are proud to have him as a part of our collaborative team of educators at RES!”

In March 2013, CSDE 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 during the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. RES’s principal, Natalie Hammond, is a survivor of the Sandy Hook shooting and was also a friend of Anne Marie Murphy.  Today’s celebration was particularly special in that it honored an exceptional paraeducator as well as acknowledged the commitment of Principal Hammond in her continued dedication to her students.

Jaime started working as a Paraeducator in 2016 at RES and had just started his freshman year at Sacred Heart University when he was invited to work at the school while attending his own university. His passion and skill were apparent, as he was requested to work as a 1:1 paraeducator with students receiving Special Services and then as a long-term paraeducator with a behavioral therapist. Jamie currently works as paraeducator supervising in the cafeteria and as a paraeducator on the mathematics intervention team. He also is an active member of the Crisis Intervention Team and is a negotiating member of the Paraeducator Union. Jaime is an RES alum where he attended with his triplet brothers from 2002-2008. He enjoys being able to return to his hometown roots in the traditional New England school building and work with the educators and paraeducators who helped raise him. 

When not at work, Jaime keeps busy working within the local and international communities. He is a volunteer Crew Chief and Board Member with the Westport Police Department’s division of Emergency Medical Service, a Contributing Photographer with WestportNow News Media, an environmental educator with Earthplace, the Nature Discovery Center, and also can be seen behind the counter at Saugatuck Sweets in Westport. Jaime travels often to learn about other cultures, bringing back children’s books and stories from the countries he visits. He still travels to Naples, Italy annually to continue work with Centro La Tenda, an at-risk-youth shelter within the city’s center - the organization that began his traveling in the first place while in high school. 

The Anne Marie Murphy Paraeducator of the Year Program selects one exceptional paraeducator - narrowed down from approximately 14,000 public school paraeducators - through a rigorous process that includes interviews conducted by representatives of the School Paraprofessional Advisory Council (comprised of former state Paraeducators of the Year) and representatives from educational organizations and collective bargaining. Paraeducators assist certified teachers in the classroom and play an integral role in developing students’ academic, social, and emotional skills. Connecticut’s Paraeducator of the Year represents the profession in forums and advisory committees influencing education policy and public awareness of the successes that take place daily in schools, as well as the challenges they face.

 

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