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    Lucille Zeigler

    2024 Substitute Educator of the Year: Paraeducator Category
    Berry Middle School
    Hoover City School District - Alabama

    To honor the important work of our employees, we recognize outstanding substitute teachers, paraeducators, and support staff through our annual Substitute Educator of the Year program. 

    Mrs. Lucille Zeigler, also known as "Mama Z", has become part of the family at Berry Middle School in Alabama where she is a building paraeducator. She is the winner of our 2024 Substitute Educator of the Year award in the paraeducator category.

    In this Q&A, Lucille shares about her experiences and offers wisdom to new substitute paraeducators.

    Why did you become a paraeducator?

    I became a paraeducator about 15 years ago after working in the school cafeteria. I saw a lot of students come through the line and I just felt I wanted to do more. I'm a server and realized I wanted to do more than just serve food. I wanted to help them learn. I love to see the faces of students as they learn.

    What do you like most about being a paraeducator?

    In the moments when I'm sitting with a student who is struggling, I feel like I'm struggling right beside them because I want them to understand what I'm trying to say. I have to be patient, but when they do get it—that makes me happy and just brings me joy.

    What advice would you give to new paraeducators?

    Be patient, be kind, be a listener, and love what you do. Don’t forget you are there to help the head teacher, but you’re not the teacher. So don't try to take over the classroom.

    Watch this brief video to learn more about Mrs. Zeigler. 


    What would you tell someone considering working in schools?

    Being a paraeducator is a calling. It's an everyday job even when you're not in school. I see kids who I know at the grocery store all the time. So, you're always teaching. You do get to have flexibility in your schedule which is good because I've been married for nearly 40 years and have four grandkids who I also love spending time with.

    You also get to work with an amazing team of people who are supportive and love children.

    What motivates you to wake up and teach?

    When I wake up in the mornings, I'm excited. I don't feel like it's a job I'm going to. I'm excited to go and see who will learn something new today—and how I can teach them something new. Years ago when I was younger, I had a job that I wasn't excited to go to, but being a paraeducator, I'm excited every day.

    What a colleague said about Mrs. Zeigler.

    "I literally could not do my job without her. "Mrs. Z." is beyond professional; she is consistent and a steady presence in the classroom. Mrs. Z. is compassionate and caring. She always puts others before herself. Her energy and enthusiasm is contagious.

    She pours her heart into every interaction she has. She has the unique ability to identify when a student needs "tough love" and when they need a little extra support."

    - Mindy Hicks, Special Education Teacher Facilitator

    Nomination video submitted by faculty and staff at Berry Middle School.


    Congratulations, Mrs. Z! 

    "Lucille Zeigler is a true representative of the high-quality educators Kelly Education provides to its partner schools each day," says Nicola Soares, President of Kelly Education. "She operates with high integrity and makes a clear difference in ensuring a successful learning environment exists in the classroom. We are proud to recognize her commitment with this honor.”

    As one of four Substitute Educator of the Year winners, Lucille Zeigler will receive a $5,000 bonus from Kelly Education, as well as $1,500 donated on her behalf to Berry Middle School.


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