A vocation to take care of children

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Meet Mercer County’s ESP of the Year Linda McRae

Linda McRae accomplished a lot in her professional life before her career in public education. She first worked with ETS (formerly Educational Testing Service). In 1978, she moved to California where she worked for the State Department of Social Services and then for the Hughes Aircraft Company. Upon her return to New Jersey, she worked for the Urban League of Metropolitan Trenton as an administrative assistant/AIDS facilitator.

After working for the NJM insurance company since 1998, she took early retirement and ran her own business. Then a friend asked him to consider working in education.

“I’m a very caring person,” McRae said. “I do a lot of volunteer work in our community, but I never thought of getting into education.

She first worked for the Trenton Board of Education as a substitute teacher, but after a month the position moved to Source for Teachers. McRae worked for this company until the Trenton School Board began hiring special education paraprofessionals. She applied and got a job.

After five years with Trenton Public Schools, she was fired, but two years later she was recalled, along with a few of her colleagues.

“When I came back, it was almost half my salary,” McRae recalled. “I came back for the kids, but my experience through it all helped me understand the union a bit more. I got a lot more involved. I joined the Pride committee and the ESP committee.

By attending the association’s workshops and conferences, McRae said she was beginning to see that the union was really doing a lot for its members.

“Most people don’t know what’s going on, they’re just paying their dues,” McRae said. “But if you want to know what’s going on, you have to get involved. And once I got involved, the association saw what I was doing in the community and that I was an asset to them.

McRae retired at the end of the 2021-22 school year.

As a paraprofessional, McRae has worked with special education students, including those with learning disabilities, cognitive disabilities, and autism.

“I would re-teach the students,” McRae said. “Paraprofessionals mirror teachers and reinforce lessons with students who struggle to understand the subject. I really enjoyed working with the children because I felt they really needed me. It’s not just academics; it is more about social and emotional learning, life skills and trauma-informed learning. I wanted to help them as best I could. »

McRae, who has a grown child of her own, felt an immediate connection to the students she taught.

“I got addicted,” she recalls. “I started loving the kids and the kids loved me back. I felt that some of the kids I worked with really needed that love.

McRae was inspired to continue her education in order to better help her students.

“In the educational community, you’re constantly learning and growing, so I went back and finished my degree in organizational management,” McRae said. “Once I finished, I wanted to keep learning. I kept taking professional development classes. As the kids learn, you learn too.

McRae is honored to be named Mercer County’s 2022 ESP of the Year.

“I was really surprised,” McRae said. “At school and in the community, I try to do the best I can, and someone else has seen that too.”

McRae planned to retire at the end of the 2021-2022 school year, but had no plans to end his union involvement.

“I want to continue to be involved in the union, even after I retire, as a member of NJREA,” she said.

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