• Heather Hammers: Paraeducator, Benner Elementary School

    hhIf there’s one thing Heather Hammers loves, it’s being a mom to her infant son, Chase. Getting to see him giggle, grow and smile is something the Benner Elementary School paraeducator said she enjoys the most. And bringing her motherly care and nurture to her job every day at school – while working with autistic, emotional and learning support students – is something that comes naturally.

    Hammers started in the position more than eight years ago after applying while student-teaching. Originally, she said with a laugh, it wasn’t a job she wanted.

    “At the time, there was a job posting at Bellefonte and my mom was like, ‘You should apply!’ but I didn’t want to,” she said. “I was OK with substituting, but the position never got filled, so I eventually just applied and went to the interview. They ended up offering me the job before I even made it home.”

    And it became a decision she never regretted, adding that working at Benner Elementary is also more like going to work with family who support each other every chance they get.

    “It’s not easy, but in a position like this, you’re there to support the student, and lend a listening ear and be their confidant, and gain their trust,” she said, adding that having trust among students is one of the most important aspects of the job. “When you have a good relationship with a student, they buy into the help you’re trying to provide for them.”

    Among the most rewarding parts of the job, she said, is hearing the excitement of many students who enjoy sharing their accomplishments with her. When she returned to school from maternity leave in the spring, there was even a particular student who would often tell Hammers just how much she was missed.

    “Just knowing you have that relationship you can build with them where they look forward to seeing you everyday is all worth it,” she said.

    With a bachelor’s degree from Lock Haven University in K-6 elementary education and a minor in special education, she is also able to bring that background to the position.

    When not at school, Hammers said she enjoys spending time with her husband and son, and doing anything outdoors – boating, fishing, gardening, hiking and even sitting on her porch reading a good book.

    *By Brit Milazzo, public relations director, BASD