WALLINGFORD — Born fifth of 10 children, Connie Sperlazza has always been around kids.
Sperlazza, a paraeducator at E.C. Stevens Elementary School, was recently named the Wallingford Public Schools Paraeducator of the Year for 2019-2020.
“Even when I was at home with my own children, I volunteered at their school,” she said, “going in and helping with writing, or reading, or whatever the teachers needed. I was always involved.”
She’s been at Stevens since 2004. She began as a recess aide but soon moved into the classroom.
“Once I got in here, I just really clicked with the kids,” she said.
She stayed in the TLC reading program until the district-wide elementary school reconfiguration changed Stevens to a K-2 school in 2010, and the program disappeared.
She’s currently a first and second grade intervention para.
She works alongside teachers, often giving students one-on-one support with academics and behavior, “whatever the classroom teacher or the kids need help with,” she said.
During her 15 years as a para, she said, the biggest change she’s seen is in the kids.
“It’s a changing world,” she said. “Sometimes kids are handed things that they didn’t want, things that they have to accept,” like social or economic status.
Working with those kids is the most rewarding, she said, “to give that extra little bit of attention … Empathy goes a long way, and patience.”
Sperlazza grew up in Meriden and lives in Wallingford. She celebrates her 40th wedding anniversary this weekend, and has two daughters and a grandson.
In a statement, Danielle Bellizzi, assistant superintendent for personnel, said that Sperlazza uses “her calm and comforting demeanor to help students feel heard and understood.”
“Paraeducators serve a vital role in the lives of our schools,” Bellizzi said, “as they support the work of our teachers and administrators through the thought and care that they bring to our classrooms … (Sperlazza) is an integral part of the school’s efforts to ensure the academic, social and emotional growth of all students.”