Lilly honored as Educational Support Personnel of the Year

FROM STAFF REPORTS

COLUMBIANA – A Columbiana Middle School employee was honored as the Shelby County School District’s Educational Support Personnel of the Year on April 21.

Karen Lilly, an instructional aide and paraeducator at Columbiana Middle School, was named the Shelby County School District's Educational Support Personnel of the Year. (Contributed)

Karen Lilly, an instructional aide and paraeducator at Columbiana Middle School, was named the Shelby County School District’s Educational Support Personnel of the Year. (Contributed)

Karen Lilly, an instructional aide and paraeducator at CMS, received the award, which the district implemented five years ago to recognize the hard work and dedication of Educational Support Professionals, according to a Shelby County Schools press release.

Lilly has worked at CMS for the past seven years as an instructional aide and paraeducator, and as a substitute teacher for more than eight years.

The idea for the award came out of the Strategic Planning process as a way to promote the importance of support operations in the educational process and the role support professionals play in helping to prepare students for the journey ahead of them.

“Our students would not be able to learn were it not for the bus driver that delivers them safely to school, the mechanics that make sure those buses are safe, the CNP worker that prepares them a nutritious breakfast and lunch, or custodians that ensure they have a clean and comfortable learning environment,” said Cindy Warner, Public Relations and Community Education Supervisor at the recognition ceremony. “All of our support employees, regardless of their job duties, have a critical and important role in helping to provide a quality education to our students.”

Each school and system department location was asked to select a representative.

A district committee reviewed the submissions and selected seven winners to represent the major job categories of Accounting, Food Services, Secretarial, Maintenance, Transportation, Instruction and Custodial.

From the seven category winners, one overall winner was selected to represent the district as the Education Support Personnel of the Year.

Lilly’s principal, Dr. Kerry Rush, described her as someone whose positive attitude always makes the “glass half full.”

“Perhaps her greatest asset is her seemingly relentless supply of encouragement to everyone,” Rush said. “Working as an instructional aide, she often uses kind words mixed with a sharp wit to redirect a reluctant learner or to snap a frustrated teacher into a smiling mood.”

Lilly said the school is more than just a job to her; it is her family, her community, her past, present and future.
“It is my home,” she said. “It’s as much a part of me as the heart beating in my chest. I’ve spent more than 15 years teaching and substituting in at Columbiana Middle School, and I’ve seen it through times of struggle and success. I can tell you with confidence that these past few years I have seen CMS at its best.”

Lilly, who has children and grandchildren who have attended CMS, said all of the students that she has helped teach are her kids.

“When I add it all up, I realize more than 7,500 of my ‘children and grandchildren’ have attended CMS over my time here,” she said. “These kids may belong to someone else at home, but they hold a permanent place in my heart, not just when they’re here during the day, but throughout each day of the week and long after they’ve moved on to high school, college and careers. When I see them at ballgames, the store, or an event outside of school, the connection still remains strong.”