Calvin Winz, Paraeducator at Sarah J Anderson Elementary in Vancouver, Washington
Nominated By: Laura Tully (parent)
Calvin Winz is known at my daughter’s school as having some sort of “magic dust” that makes everything he touches successful. There are many days that I wonder if I will arrive to find out he has disappeared because he really was just an angel! Comments are made around school that if possible they would clone him and make many more Calvins. He is just that amazing! I think to best understand just how superb Calvin is at his job, I need to give some background. My daughter has been at Sarah J Anderson School since kindergarten. She is currently in the 3rd grade in a general education classroom. Anna has Down Syndrome and needs a one-on-one paraeducator to help her be successful throughout her day. In her first two years at the school, Anna was able to participate for minimal periods of time in the general education class before needing a break. Minimal progress was made academically in those first two years. Minimal inclusion was happening for her at that point. Some were unsure if Anna could be successful in a general education classroom; we believed she could be, we just needed the right person! This is where Calvin comes in.....
For second grade, last year, Calvin was hired to be Anna’s para; his first year as a paraeducator having recently made a career change. Calvin has a very kind, gentle, but a firm approach with kids. Every day he is excited to see her arrive. He is often jumping up and down, hiding behind a pole peeking out at her or just smiling ear to ear making her feel as if she has made his day by coming to school. He approached Anna with a firm belief that she could be successful in the classroom and was capable, and she has risen to the occasion. He has a calmness about him that doesn't ever get worked up over "bumps in the road"; he almost expects them and has planned for what he will do when they surface. Even on days Anna has not felt good or at her best, Calvin reminds her at the end of the day "It is ok, everyone has bad days, tomorrow is a new day and we start fresh!" As he smiles and waves goodbye, she knows he means it. Calvin made changes that allowed Anna to stay in the classroom for longer periods of time. He worked side-by-side with her teacher to have Anna included wherever she was capable, and together they made it an awesome year of learning for Anna. She was in the classroom most of her day and her ISTEP scores went way up. She made tons of friends and with his help even learned how to go through the lunch line and carry a tray like everyone else!
Calvin came back to work with Anna this year for third grade. Things have only gotten better! Anna has had a very successful year in the classroom socially and academically. She loves going to school and can't get to class fast enough. She participates at “circle time” and works at her desk next to her friends in class on her individual work. She is quite the social butterfly visiting with all her friends in class. Her tests scores continue to go up and we are excited to see what she will learn next!
There is so much more I could say about how Calvin has changed the life of a little girl with Down Syndrome who had so much potential but needed someone willing to accept the challenge. His hard work and patience has allowed for her to be successful in the classroom with her peers. Anna loves going to school where she is welcomed with open arms by everyone there. Every student Calvin has worked with has benefited, he is able to get children to respond positively and learn. There is no one more deserving of this award than Calvin Winz!
Congrats, Calvin, from al of us at K103! Get to know Calvin Winz:
What inspired you to become an educator?
My inspiration comes from my mom. She was an educator for 30 plus years. It also helps that I love working with kids.
What do you like most about teaching?
What I like most about teaching, is the kids. Seeing the growth the students make each year is awesome.
What has changed the most since you began your career in education?
My career in education is not a long one. What I have seen is the effort to include all students, regardless of their abilities, in the general education classroom. Seeing students help each other out during a lesson is fantastic. The support all students get is amazing, as well as the teachers who are put in place to help all students reach their potential.
What would you like parents to know about your job?
I would like parents to know that my job is hard, but I love going to work every day.
Share a story about your favorite teacher/educator.
When I think about my favorite teacher my thoughts instantly go to Ms. Phillips my high school chemistry teacher. I might not have been the best student, but she never gave up on me. I tried to do an experiment in front of the class one day. It didn't go as planned and I ended up setting the table on fire. In jumps Ms. Phillips to spray the table and me with the fire extinguisher. She looked at me and said "good effort." She then just walked away.
Share a favorite story about your years in education.
I have the honor of working with an amazing third grader with special needs. She was recently sick for a week and missed school. When she came back the next Monday all of her friends came running over to give her hugs as soon as they saw her. It makes my heart happy to see how much love these kids have at our school.