img_2514-2Many people rely heavily on secretaries because they know what it takes to run an office and maintain a successful working environment.

That is exactly why many employees at Donna ISD turn to Ofelia Barron. Simply said, she gets things done, she is a professional in every meaning of the word and she is well-liked and respected by everyone who knows her or works alongside her.

“Many employees look to her for advice and support,” colleague Lisa Gonzalez said. “If you speak to her co-workers, they will tell you that she is very efficient and thorough and always willing to help anyone in or out of her department. Her philosophy is that we should all work as a team and help each other out.”

Gonzalez said Barron’s strong work ethic and many years of service to The Rio Grande Valley Educational Support Staff Association (VESA) prompted the local chapter to nominate Barron for the 2015-2016 Nelda Van Dyke Award – Employee of the Year, the highest award that is presented to a paraprofessional employed in a public school district in recognition of their dedication and hard work.

Much to her surprise, Barron was selected to receive the award from a list of candidates, many of whom represented bigger districts across the state. She accepted the honor at the Texas Educational Support Staff Association (TESA) annual conference. “I wasn’t really paying too much attention when the names and information of the nominees were being read because I wasn’t expecting to win,” Barron said. “So when I heard my name, I turned to look at Lisa and we were both surprised.”

img_2513Barron said it took time for the news to sink in. “I was overwhelmed,” Barron said. “It’s a big honor. I’ve been involved with VESA and TESA for a long time and I love what they are about and what they stand for. They are the only professional organization for educational support staff. At conferences, we’re able to learn different things and keep up with the changing times, especially when it comes to technology. We’re also given tips on how to do our jobs more efficiently and be team players. We also have the opportunity to meet people from across the state and become life-long friends.”

Barron said she appreciates what she learns at the conference sessions because the information she receives allows her to grow professionally even though she has worked for the district 39 years. She has served as a teacher’s assistant and secretary or clerk for various departments including Pupil Services, Federal Programs, Human Resources, Safety and Risk Management, and now with English Language Arts and Social Studies.

“I enjoy learning and growing professionally and the fellowship that we have with all the other members,” Barron said. “Sometimes I meet people who do the same job that I do and we sit and brainstorm and share ideas that might help us improve and do better in our jobs.

There are times Barron thinks about what her life would be like if she would have had the opportunity to go to college, but she quickly snaps out of it. She said she has no regrets. She loves her job and will continue to do it to the best of her ability. “Every now and then I think about retiring but then I hold back because I love what I do and the people are great.”