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Do you ever stop to think about the professionals that make any given school day possible? Well, take that number and multiply it by the total amount of schools in the city, county, and state. While tribute is paid to teachers for making the education world go around, it’s time to recognize the out

Nov 23, 2016

Do you ever stop to think about the professionals that make any given school day possible? Well, take that number and multiply it by the total amount of schools in the city, county, and state. While tribute is paid to teachers for making the education world go around, it’s time to recognize the outstanding support staff who also impact student learning.


Lane Gallet couldn’t do her job without Lucia Gardner and Irene Rios. Gallet, a fifth-year teacher at Camelback High School in Phoenix, says the two employees are key to successful workdays.

“The talk about education almost always centers on teachers, classrooms, and kids, which is really important. But when I’m in my classroom working with students, I have to remember there are other people that I rely on to make my teaching more effective,” Gallet says. She immediately credits the office assistance in the exceptional student services department and the day-time custodian at her school.

One of Gardner’s key responsibilities includes scheduling individualized education program (IEP) meetings for students with special needs. According to Gallet, Gardner works with immense love and sincerity, as she coordinates with teachers, parents, administrators, and student schedules to make sure everyone can come together to support the learner.

“Lucia schedules equitably and makes sure teachers are called for the most important meetings. She’s dealing with a very unique population that’s highly regulated. These kids have legally binding documents that direct how we have to serve them. Although she’s not the one providing those services, she’s one of the key coordinators to making sure these kids are getting the attention they need on a timely basis,” she adds. “She’s incredibly efficient.”

Believe it or not, when first asked to participate in an interview about the importance of support staff, Gardner didn’t think she was noteworthy. But that’s where mindsets must change — without her help, IEP meetings would go unscheduled and students with special needs might be left unattended. In addition to her adminisrative work, she’s been the assistant swim coach for Camelback High School for about five years. Gardner, whose eight of nine children have graduated from Camelback High School — not to mention her husband —  is vested in the school’s education community.

Gallet, an Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University alumna, says she’s also very reliant upon Rios.

“Irene is super under-recognized on our campus because she works really early hours and in the background. I’ve never seen Irene complain,” she explains. “She’s always willing to help, even though she has to do the work that no one wants to do, like cleaning up spills in the hallway and helping me with my leaky refrigerator.”

Rios has two daughters who attend Camelback High School and has been employed by the district for nearly 17 years. When she’s in need of a little extra inspiration, she looks to her children, coworkers, and the students for motivation. In turn, she’s able to encourage those around her.

“A challenge I face at work is motivating the youth to continue studying and receiving an education, since those who I find are ditching class. I try to help them realize the hardship of life when one does not educate oneself sufficiently. However, when one does so, life brings better job opportunities and opportunities in general,” Rios says.

It’s evident the connections made between support staff and students is often immeasurable.

“Support staff members are often the people and things that aren’t considered to be a part of education,” Gallet says. “Both Lucia and Irene are so well-loved and very appreciated, even if it’s not as publically as they deserve. These sentiments are not just mine.”

Also, Gallet humbly acknowledges the cafeteria staff, who serves nearly 2,200 students free breakfast and lunch every day. “The cafeteria manager and her staff go above and beyond. Some kids only eat at the school. These employees take pride in their work and the quality of food they serve,” she says.

While the list could go on and on, Gallet expresses her gratitude for the endearing security staff at Camelback High School.

“I always think of their job being the worst because they’re mostly dealing with students who are late or in trouble. As a security guard, it might be easy to just get caught up in the fact that these students are disobeying the rules, but instead, they build relationships. It’s not so much the, ‘Hey, you’re late,’ but ‘Why are you late? You’re missing out on learning.’ They want our students to feel supported. If we’re all having similar conversations with kids, then it betters their educational path. Support staff can act as different voices, therefore advocating for the importance of academic success,” Gallet concludes.

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