Kennedy High special ed aide named ‘Paraprofessional of the Year’

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Sopheap Sap, known to the Kennedy High community as SoSo, is no average aide. Working in special education, she never forgets a birthday for students and staff. In her six years in the class, she’s brought clothing and other items to needy students. Students who don’t feel well confide in her. And she consistently inspires — and, from time to time, educates — Sal Morabito, the school’s 77-year-old veteran special education teacher.

For these reasons and more, Sap was recognized at the West Contra Costa Unified District’s 3rd annual Employee Recognition ceremony as the 2019 Paraprofessional of the Year.

Sap was nominated for the honor by Kennedy High Principal Felicia Phillips and Assistant Principal Elena Duarte-Ruiz.

An aide for six years, Sap was among WCCUSD employees celebrated at the ceremony on May 30, an event brought back to the district after a seven-year hiatus. Many employees were honored for years of service. Three employees were honored for over 45 years of service to the district, including Virginia Lawson at Lake Elementary and Aquator Sullivan at Mira Vista Elementary.

Assistant Principal Elena Duarte-Ruiz (left), Sopheap Sap (middle) and Sal Morabito (right) attend the 3rd annual Employee Recognition Ceremony at Richmond Memorial Auditorium on May 30, 2019.

Morabito said Sap is well deserving of her recognition. In her six years as an aide in the special education class at Kennedy High, she’s “never out. Not even one day.”

“The classroom runs smoothly thanks to her,” Morabito said. “The hard work, kindness and caring of Sopheap has no limits….Thanks to her I have learned of serious issues that some of our students had outside school, and was able to do something about it.”

In 21 years teaching special education, Morabito said he’s been fortunate to have great aides. None have “shown her depth of caring for our students,” Morabito said.

“During the six years we have worked together, I have found her to be proficient in her work, consistently trustworthy and dependable, and willing to go beyond what is expected to carry out her role as a key member of our teaching team,” Morabito said. “Sopheap is unfailingly thoughtful, and cooperative, and these qualities are reflected in the positive attitudes of students and coworkers alike.”

Sopheap has engaged our students in art projects, gardening and cooking skills, activities in which she excels.

“I love teaching our special ed students, but Sopheap is a huge reason why I am still teaching at the ripe age of 77, and with no intention to retire anytime soon,” Morabito siad.

Sopheap Sap, aide at the Kennedy High special education program, poses with her students. (Photo credit: Sal Morabito)