Fred Rogers Room

2023-2024 Outstanding Paraeducator Award

Terri Pajak, a paraeducator at Greensburg Partial, was awarded the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit (WIU) 2023-2024 Outstanding Paraeducator of the Year Award at the WIU regular Board meeting, held on June 25th. 

Dr. Matthew Thomas, WIU Student Services Director made the presentation and said, "Providing invaluable support to the classroom, Terri exemplifies the very best of what it means to be an outstanding paraeducator. She works with students who have unique needs and does so with great care and guidance.”

Pajak said watching her late mother, Janet Boris, a special education teacher, “tutor kids with special needs at our kitchen table during the summer break” inspired her to become a paraeducator.

Grateful for having this influence and humbled to receive the WIU Outstanding Paraeducator Award, she commented, “Being part of the mental health classroom is incredibly fulfilling. Each day I’m amazed by our students. Building relationships with them and helping with their lessons brings me immense joy and purpose.” 

Pajak has also found inspiration by working with her fellow educators.  “Collaborating with dedicated paraeducators and witnessing the inspiring teaching methods of Adam Zawalsh is both motivating and uplifting.”

Joe Rice, WIU Student Services Supervisor, remarked, “Terri anticipates what the teacher will need before he needs it. For the students she serves, Terri is a steady hand and available ear to them. She holds them accountable for their work but does so with a caring and gentle heart. She is also an innovator in that she will be among the first paraeducators to get their teaching certification through the Para-Teacher Pathways Program, a Pennsylvania Department of Education program being offered.

Pajak commented on pursuing her teaching certification. “It was the right time in my life. I was a caregiver for my mother and grandmother. It would be amazing to have my own classroom and to see students reach their full academic potential.”            

She added, “Beyond the classroom, I’m honored to serve as president of our local union, the WIU Classroom Assistant’s Education Support Professionals. As the president of the Southwest Division, advocating for them on the ESP (Educational Support Professionals) Board of Directors in Harrisburg,” is also a role, Pajak said, “I find deeply rewarding and inspiring.”

Dr. Thomas remarked, “Terri’s thoughtful approach and leadership skills have gained her the respect of both students and fellow educators. She is continually focused on each student’s success.”