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Growing Our Own at Aubrey ISD

Aubrey ISD’s New Teacher Academy held its 25th class this past July. Among the teachers new to the district were a group that were not new to Aubrey ISD. This group of newly certified teachers have worked at Aubrey ISD as paraprofessionals and aides, including three from Monaco Elementary School. 

Over the last 20 years, Aubrey ISD has gained a solid reputation of developing teachers and supporting new teachers. Aubrey is alsoThree Monaco teachers stand in Aubrey ISD t-shirts in front of classroom growing its own teachers. Cherish Day, Staci Carter and Kelly Leitner have been working at Monaco Elementary as paraprofessionals, assisting teachers in the classroom. Over the last two years, they have taken online classes to become certified to teach and were hired to stay on as first-year teachers for the upcoming school year. 

Day, Carter and Leitner all have different stories on how they became paras and then teachers, but all three share a love for working with students and working at Aubrey.

“Once I got into school as a para, I knew that it was my calling,” Day said. “I knew that I didn’t want to do anything else. That was what I wanted to do as a career.”

Day has worked as a special education paraprofessional at Monaco for the last four years. Prior to moving to Providence, she worked as a paraprofessional at a school district in Georgia. 

“As a para, you have to be very flexible,” Day said. “You are going to work in a lot of different classrooms with a lot of different teachers whose teaching styles are going to be different. It is a very rewarding job and the experiences you have with the students make it all worth it.”

Over the last two years, Day took online classes at Grand Canyon University to earn her bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate. This past January, she resigned as a paraprofessional but never left Monaco. She finished her degree and got certified after student teaching at Monaco this past spring.

Along with Carter and Leitner, Day was set on teaching in Aubrey. 

“I wanted to stay in Aubrey,” Day said. “I have two boys in the district. We live in Providence but I didn’t want to go to any other district. I told my husband that I would wait if there were no positions open.”

After graduating in May, Day’s ideal working situation was to teach 1st grade at Monaco. The stars aligned for her family when a 1st grade position at Monaco did open up. 

 

Day’s colleague and classmate was Staci Carter. The two both ended up taking classes at Grand Canyon at the same time.

“I don’t know how we would have done it without each other,” Carter said. “We were able to bounce ideas off each other if we got frustrated.”

Carter also earned her degree this past year and is staying on at Monaco as a special education resource teacher after five years as a special education para.

Carter actually fell into teaching. Her previous job required a lot of travel so she decided to try out substitute teaching at the local school on a whim.

“I started out substitute teaching, and I fell in love with special education,” Carter said. “My next step was to get a job as a para at the school. After doing it for five years, I love it so much.”

After meeting a representative from Grand Canyon University, she realized she had a path to teaching without leaving her job at Monaco. For the next two years, she took two online classes every eight weeks in order to reach her goal.

Carter has a lot of ties to Aubrey. Her grandmother retired from Aubrey after working as an aide and bus driver. Her mom, aunt and uncle all graduated from Aubrey.

“I wanted that for my son,” Carter said.

teachers sit and stand in three rows in front of a Aubrey ISD backdrop

Kelly Leitner also wanted her children to attend Aubrey schools. Her family moved to Providence partly so that their children could go to Aubrey. They ended up loving Providence and the Aubrey area so much she decided to be an employee there. 

Leitner worked as a para at Monaco for the last two years and planned on remaining there for the foreseeable future as a para because it was a good fit for her family. As her children got a little older and she saw the special education program growing at Aubrey, she thought that it was the perfect time to transition and be part of that growth.

“I didn’t want to move to that next step unless I thought I could give it everything,” Leitner said.

After getting certified through online classes, Leitner will be part of the new RISE program at Aubrey. RISE stands for teaching independence through structured environments. It’s a classroom that gives students additional support. 

“I am so excited about being a part of a new program,” Leitner said. “That’s probably the most exciting part.”

Leitner became a para partly because of her background in speech and language pathology. While taking classes for a degree in speech and language pathology, she saw kids that were receiving speech services were on the autism spectrum and she had no experience working with students with autism. So, she decided to look for a paraprofessional job to gain that experience. 

While working as a paraprofessional, she realized that being a para was where she was supposed to be. So, working as a special education teacher in the RISE program is a perfect fit for Leitner and her experience. 

“If I could have designed it, I don’t know that I could have even come up with how perfect I see it being now,” Leitner said.

On a Friday morning in July, the three women were together again at Monaco, setting up their classrooms and excited to start another school year, but this time as teachers.