Deborah Lightner: Personal care aide, Bellefonte Area Middle School
Deborah Lightner loves her job. She calls it finding her “niche” in life.
The personal care aide at Bellefonte Area Middle School works primarily with one eighth-grade student, following him through school since he was in fifth-grade at Bellefonte Elementary. In her role, Lightner said she works with the student to help improve his academic skills and gain more independence.
“It makes me feel good that I’m doing something that helps these kids along,” she said. “A lot of them I’ve been with at least four years, so I’ve seen them grow and going from not being so independent to finding independence. It’s really rewarding.”
Lightner started as a long-term substitute in 2011 for the Bellefonte Area School District. By 2014, she filled a fulltime position with the autistic support program, working with a student to help him with day-to-day activities while in school. This came after working for 30 years at Weis Markets in State College.
“It was a big change, but I should have come to the school district a long time ago because I really enjoy it,” Lightner said. “It doesn’t feel like work. I found my niche.”
She also hopes to continue working with her designated student throughout his time in high school.
“He’s a good kid and I feel like we’re a good fit,” she said. “I could probably retire next year, but I’d like to get him through high school like one of my kids.”
Lightner is a graduate of the Bald Eagle Area School District and now lives in Pleasant Gap. She said she enjoys spending time with her daughter and granddaughter and going on spontaneous road trips with her husband in their trike motorcycle. They have gone as far as South Carolina and Missouri.