• Charleen Casbourne: Paraeducator, Bellefonte Elementary School

    char19 Char Casbourne wears a lot of different hats – mom, personal care aide, artist, hockey fan and the jokester at Bellefonte Elementary School. Laughing a lot and keeping a positive attitude is something the second-year paraeducator and former longtime substitute said she prides herself on, which makes for a good school experience for herself, her colleagues and the students she works with.

    “I think I bring a sense of humor and positivity every day to work in what I do partially because there are moments that are tough and you have to dig deep,” she said. “It’s a feeling of success when you go in and out of it positively, so I really do believe I can help those around me. It’s about finding the little moments that make you happy.”

    Casbourne began working in the district in the 2018-19 school year as a personal care aide assigned to a Bellefonte Elementary School student. That came after subbing in the district for nearly 10 years. This year, paraeducators at the school are rotating among students while working with autistic and emotional support teachers such as Erin Chapman and Ashley Sterbank.

    “In my job, I find I have to be very flexible and have a lot of empathy for what’s going on when a kid comes to school because the ultimate goal is to create independence, inclusion and make sure they have a good day so they can get a good education,” Casbourne said. “The best part comes when a kid realizes what you’re doing for them and they connect to you and show their emotion. That’s the best part because you see the hard work pay off.”

    While she said working with students in special education is something she was meant to do, where another passion lies is with art. Casbourne studied at the Parsons School of Design in New York City and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh before becoming a professional artist specializing in acrylic painting. Calling herself a former “struggling artist,” she later landed a job at Bellefonte Area School District – but art is still a big part of her life while teaching the skill, holding painting parties, offering large class or one-on-one lessons and more.

    “I make art because I love to make art,” she said. “It’s both an outlet for stress relief and it’s fun. In making art there are no rules so everyone can do it.”

    Some of her work can be found on a locker mural on the second floor of Bellefonte Elementary School – a transitional piece she said features a variety of recognizable artwork.

    In her downtime, Casbourne enjoys spending time with her husband and son, and watching hockey. She’s an avid Pittsburgh Penguins fan, having grown up attending games with her father, and now regularly attends Penn State hockey games.

    *By Brit Milazzo, public relations director, BASD