Carol Courneya’s passions range from her family and cooking and hosting themed dinner parties for friends, to designing children’s jewelry with crystals and semiprecious stones.
Many would add that she is equally enthused and energetic — if not more so — about her work as an instructional assistant and union advocate. For her many years of dedicated and effective service, Courneya has been named 2018 Paula J. Monroe CTA Education Support Professional of the Year.
Courneya is humbled by the honor, saying she loves her role as a paraprofessional with the special education students at Beverly Hills High School, a position she’s held for almost two decades. “I serve students in many different capacities — whatever the kids need,” she says, whether that be help with Spanish, science or English, studying for an exam, or applying for college.
She is proud of the trusting relationships she builds with students. “I treat each student with respect and listen to their concerns and help them in their academic needs. Because of the trust and how students relate to me, they are very comfortable sharing their problems and look to me for advice and guidance.”
As for work with the Beverly Hills Education Association (BHEA), where she’s held positions ranging from president of her classified unit to head of its bargaining team, it’s a labor of love. “The whole thing is a joy, not a chore or a task,” she says about helping to promote the union, keep it strong and motivate people to stay.
“Carol is willing to go above and beyond to get things done,” says Telly Tse, president of BHEA, which has 400 members. He recalls how hard she fought to get respect for ESPs in the Beverly Hills Unified School District, especially after discovering inequities compared with neighboring districts. “Historically with professional development days in our district, ESPs are an afterthought. Carol advocated for her unit members, and now ESPs are included in professional development.”
Tse says she also bargained into the contract more equity and consistency in salary and benefits for classified staff.
Courneya says her detailed knowledge of district policy allows her to speak up. For example: “Monday is a PD day about safety — including active shooter training and CPR. Instructional assistants are not necessarily included, so technically that’s a day off with no pay. Working with the knowledge I have, it popped into my head that back in August we were approved for 20 hours of PD.
“I asked if we could use some of those hours for this day, and the district entrusted me to organize the other instructional assistants for the professional development day.”
Trust is clearly the operative word with Courneya. Her trusting relationship with district administrators is built on years of BHEA advocacy work. Her colleagues trust that she will get the job done with their best interests in mind. And students come to her knowing she will fully support them, academically and personally.
Courneya says the key to her success is more than that, however. “On my end, it’s transparency and honesty. That’s the secret.”
- Instructional Assistant, Beverly Hills High School
- Member, Beverly Hills Education Association; president of the classified unit
- Lives in Culver City, where she grew up; husband Luke; children Amanda Rose, 19, and Lucas Dillon, 13
- Background: child and adult actress; artist “of many sorts”
Celebrate CTA ESP Day on May 22. See cta.org/ESPday for ideas.