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Love of children leads to classroom job

After working in the textile industry and hating “every day of it,” Sharon Jennings quit her job and began her career in something she loved.

Nearly two decades later, Jennings can still proudly say with a smile on her face that she loves her job.

Jennings is a paraprofessional at Meadville Elementary School working with Pam Archer in her pre-K class.

According to Jennings, it was her “love for children” that led her to the profession she has enjoyed for 23 years.

“I love spending time with the children,” said Jennings.

And even though the job has its less than perfect moments, just like any other job, she said they all learn to go with the flow.

“If an accident happens, or someone throws up, we just work together and get it done,” she added.

Jennings holds just as much responsibility as the classroom teacher; however, she doesn’t have to come up with the lesson plans. She makes sure the room is clean and sterilized every morning, helps with breakfast and lunch, has the students work laid out and ready by the time they arrive and makes sure all their little noses and faces are clean. 

Although she’s been working with pre-K students for two years, she also has worked with students K through seventh grade, never leaving Meadville.

Her most challenging part of the job, she said, has been trying to reach a student or show them something and they fail to comprehend what she’s trying to show them.

“I like working with the little ones. They are more loveable. They still like to be hugged,” added Jennings.

During her 23 years on the job, Jennings said she has seen a lot of changes at Meadville Elementary. She’s has seen principals, teachers, librarians, art teachers and other faculty and staff come and go, but the building itself hasn’t changed much over the years, she said.

“A lot has changed. We didn’t even have pre-K. It used to be first through seventh grade. We used to not even have a computer lab, now we have two. We’ve had major changes with faculty and staff. Only three people are still here who were here when I first started,” added Jennings.

The tenured paraprofessional is quick to say she has been fortunate to have worked with many good teachers through the years, but if she could change anything about the Halifax County Public School System, she would change the pay for everyone.

“It’s never been about the money for me,” she added.

She’s had children mouth back at her, seen children pass away and watched children grow up.

Her most memorable experiences include when she told a student she was going to call their mother about their behavior, and the student responded, “Go ahead and call my mama. She ain’t going to do nothing about it.” 

One of her saddest memories over her two decades at work occurred when two elementary students fell through a pond and died.

“They were good kids. They were just playing on the ice and just fell through,” said Jennings.

“All of my years have been good,” she added.

Over her 23 years on the job at Meadville, Jennings has had opportunities to work in every grade level the school has had to offer.

Archer said she’s not ready to let Jennings retire; she still has a few more years left. But Jennings said when she does decide to leave the school system, she plans to do some traveling.

“The road hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been enjoyable and an experience to remember,” she concluded.

Jennings resides in Nathalie with her husband, Elvin, and they have two grown children, Devone and Tanisha.

(Editor's note: This part of an occasional series The Gazette-Virginian is publishing this year spotlighting unsung heroes in the education arena.)