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PSRP Spotlight: Larry Gaines

Larry Gaines is a Special Education Paraeducator at the Stadium School. He has worked as a paraeducator in BCPSS for the past 18 years and has worked with Baltimore students for 22 years. Mr. Gaines is a former Building Rep, and is also the President of his neighborhood association. He has previously served as the Chair of the Baltimore City Parent Community Advisory Board and as the PTA President for two different schools.

What inspired you to become a paraeducator?

My journey to become a paraeducator has always been to advocate for children and the community. I started off volunteering at my children’s school as a Boy Scout leader. This led me to being involved in working with kids in the Baltimore City Public School System for 22 years. I was asked to be a member of the PTA, resulting in me becoming PTA President at both of my childrens’ schools. As a result of my dedication and work ethic, an administrator hired me into the school system permanently 18 years ago as a paraeducator.

What motivates you to continue to be a paraeducator?

I have a natural motivation – I was already working in the schools and I continue to enjoy working in schools. I wear many hats as a paraeducator from working in the cafeteria, to cleaning school grounds, to sitting with students, and meeting/greeting parents on a daily basis, just to name a few.

What is your favorite thing about being a paraeducator or working in the school system?

My passion is working with children who have special needs. I enjoy celebrating with them on special occasions and seeing the joy on their faces. When children achieve accomplishments and thank you in their own special way, that’s priceless

Have your duties changed during the course of being a paraeducator? If so, how have you handled the changes?

The field of education changes as children, teachers, and administrators change. It is like water. It flows and changes directions; Therefore, you have to be very flexible and willing to adapt.

You have great relationships with your students, families, and colleagues. How do you nurture those relationships?

Relationships are nurtured with patience. I must have patience with myself, co-workers, children, and administration. The ability to wait for something without getting angry or upset is a valuable quality in a person. Sometimes when talking and listening to children, parents, and staff, I have to sometimes verify what I heard, then verify that I understood what I heard, and then verify how to deliver a response. You build relationships over time with patience, trust, and understanding, and when you are willing to ask questions and not assume you have all the answers.

Why are you involved with educational politics?

I am involved with the politics of education because it is the driving force of our jobs, our security, for today and tomorrow. Sometimes you have to lift up your voice to say whether you agree or disagree and not just back down and depend on politicians and administrators to do what’s best for you. That’s why I feel being a part of a union gives me the collective voice to raise awareness. It’s a learning process to go through, but in the end my voice is heard.