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Kim Butler is the Anchor of Carlile's All-Star Team

 Kim Butler works with a student at Carlile The Pueblo School District 60 Board of Education recently read into the record a resolution honoring the efforts of the district’s paraprofessionals.

The honor coincides with April 1’s designation as National Paraprofessional Appreciation Day.

The board’s resolution praises paraprofessionals for providing a critical service, daily, to children and teachers, with “great skill, compassion, humor and sensitivity.”

Although technically classified as “support staff,” classroom paraprofessionals are essential partners in the educational process, working side-by-side with teachers to assist special-needs students – many facing significant physical and other challenges – to thrive and grow.

Outside of the classroom and school building, this difficult and taxing work is often overlooked and underpraised. But for building leaders and educators, paraprofessionals are truly the “unsung heroes” whose selfless commitment is an indispensable part of education.

At Carlile Elementary School, it’s the All-Star Team that’s entrusted with the noble duty of supporting Wildcats on various spectrums of the autism scale. 

Whether spending time one-on-one with children to build relationships or working with a handful in small groups, it’s the paraprofessionals who serve as the much-needed and beloved “glue” that holds the team together.

“What they bring to our school is a whole lot of love, structure and support,” Carlile Principal Jimmie Pool said of the paraprofessionals. “They are here for the right reasons, because it’s hard work, and a lot of our kiddos need that extra support. But they come to work every day with a smile.”

In the eyes of Principal Pool, and Special Education Educators Kim Krupka and Raul Sosa, it’s paraprofessional Kim Butler who truly gives the All-Star Team its shine.

“Kim’s been with us for quite a while: even before I became principal,” Principal Pool said. “She’s here every day, doing what’s best for kids. That’s her motto. And you can see the result of that by the smiles on the faces of the kids she works with and supports.”

Both Mrs. Krupka and Mr. Sosa said that Paraprofessional Butler leads by example, and that without her presence – together with the other paraprofessionals who serve the All-Star Team – the collective would simply cease to function.

“I stepped into this program new, last year,” said Mrs. Krupka. “And I learned specific things about each and every student from Kim. She knows each of these students individually, and she can tell you what works and what doesn’t at a given time. 

“It made my job so much easier coming in, because I learned so much more from her than I would have sitting down and reading an Individualized Educational Plan or a research piece. When I stepped in, I felt that she was my mentor and teacher in this program. Without all of our paraprofessionals, our All-Star Team would be non-existent. We wouldn’t be able to function.”

Mr. Sosa offered similar team-building praise for Mrs. Butler and her fellow paraprofessionals.

“Coming in as a newer teacher, I learned not only from my schooling, but by watching the paras: watching what they do, watching how they interact with the children,” Mr. Sosa explained. “I learned about these students, and continue to learn, simply by observing the paras. It’s a wealth of knowledge.”

Without the All-Star Team’s paraprofessionals, Mr. Sosa said educating the young Wildcats with autism “would be impossible. They are the boots on the ground, truly working with the students day in and day out. We help facilitate a lot of the education but as teachers, we’re pulled away a lot to do meetings, paperwork, things like that. 

“So the paras are truly key to our program. We’re only as strong as our team and without them, we don’t have a program.”

With 15 years as a paraprofessional, Mrs. Butler has spent the past 7 at Carlile. She entered the field because of her love of children and desire to see them flourish and grow.

“I feel I have the patience and compassion to work with kids with disabilities,” Mrs. Butler said. “And I feel that I can make a difference for them, in a safe and secure environment.”

To reach children living with autism, Mrs. Butler said establishing a rapport built on trust and safety is essential.

"You have to be able to meet them where they are at and then bring them closer to what you want them to be,” she explained. “Build a relationship with them built off of trust, security and compassion. They are in their shells, and to see them emerge from those shells and connect with you is my reward.

“We have a lot of children who are non-verbal, so to see them connect with you, and that ‘light bulb’ go off – whether it be through eye action or them leading you – is simply the best. When these kids feel safe and seen, they flourish.”

In those times when the job becomes stressful and patience-testing, Mrs. Butler reflects on the lessons she learned as a child. As the daughter of an educator, she learned early on the importance of positively impacting the lives of little ones.

“My dad was a teacher at Columbian Elementary for 32 years and my mother was a nurse: both just really compassionate people,” Mrs. Butler said. “So I was raised to have compassion for those who are less fortunate, and to help them along in this world.”

With a robust laugh, Mrs. Butler said no one enters education for recognition or money. Rather, it’s a desire to touch the minds, and hearts, of those students whose lives would surely be less if not for the dedication and commitment of those like the All-Star Team. 

“Being a paraprofessional is a lot of hard work that nobody really sees, day in and day out,” Mrs. Butler said. “We’re teachers, nurses, we’re everything to these kids. To know you have the ability to make a positive influence in a child's life by teaching them the tools and strategies they need to be successful in their day-to-day lives is so rewarding,” Mrs. Butler said. 

Prior to becoming a paraprofessional, Mrs. Butler worked in an office setting. She said the difference between the two lines of work is vast.

“I would never go back to an office job, because this is instant gratification,” she said of being a paraprofessional. “I feel very blessed to be at Carlile, because it’s a family: the way we all work together makes it so rewarding.”

Mrs. Butler points out that one Wildcat, who initially was reluctant to attend school, is now flourishing and enjoying every moment: thanks to a little extra attention on her part.

“I go out to the car every morning to meet him and then walk him in,” she said. “He’s so excited and now looks forward to coming to school every day.

“If the kids leave the classroom with a smile on their faces and having learned something, I know I did my job.”