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School-related Employee of the Year: With a little love, every child can learn

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By Angye Morrison

Marilyn Basford, a paraprofessional at Gadsden Elementary Magnet School and the Gadsden County School-Related Employee of the Year, blushes a little when she’s congratulated for winning the honor. She’s quick to tell you...she just loves children.

A native of Jacksonville, Basford moved to Chattahoochee in 1972. She worked at Chattahoochee Elementary for 19 years before coming to GEMS, and has worked with Gadsden County children for 27 years.

“I just love children and I enjoy working with them. I thoroughly enjoy them. They are neat, no matter what. I find them to be unique and honest,” she said.

Basford says its important to help kids discover their gifts and a good sense of self, so they can feel good about themselves. It’s only then that learning can happen.

“I have learned that all children can learn, and everybody is somebody. You have to find what a child is good at and their uniqueness, and then learning can take place,” she said. “(Being in education has) taught me a lot of patience and to be loving and kind.”

Basford works with kindergarten, first and second grade teachers. She works with students to help reinforce their math and reading skills, and she helps with preparing their homework folders, supervises the children, prepares reports and keeps records. And that’s just a few of the duties she performs.

She’s also served on the School Advisory Council, Grandparents Day, Black History, Veterans Day, Christmas program, science and end of year committees. She’s even been the assistant coach for the GEMS Lady Owls cheerleading squad, and she still finds time to mentor students after school, helping them with their homework and preparing for the FCAT.

Basford has not only opened her heart to the children, but she’s also opened her wallet and other resources as well.

“There have been many times in my years working in the school system that keeping  my eyes and ears and heart open have meant using my own resources to help a child with lunch money, clothes, school supplies, ice cream money or seeing that they have something for Christmas,” she said.

But the rewards she receives in return are far greater, Basford said.

“There is not another job you can go to where everyone wants to hug you, tell you something, wants to sit with you, hold your hand, draw you pictures daily, wants to be your best friend or thinks you smell good and look pretty,” she said. “Where else would you go every day where children want to show you what they have achieved, maybe by reading to you or writing a story or showing you the social skills you have modeled have paid off and lifted their self esteem?”

GEMS Principal Elijah Key Jr. said Basford has impressed him with her ability to maintain her integrity and values in all situations.

“If we had many more employees with Ms. Basford’s ambitions and attitude, GEMS would be the school of choice for all,” he said.

Brandi Jackson, a sophomore at West Gadsden High School and a former student of Basford’s, wrote a letter of recommendation for her favoriate parapro, saying she’d be “appalled”  if Basford wasn’t nominated for Employee of the Year.

“She’s a great person to learn from and she’s a great learner, too,” Jackson wrote. “I have learned a lot from Ms. Basford over the years and she has taught me how to be independent and also to do what’s right.”

Basford has a grown son and daughter, a granddaughter, 5, who’s in Brazil, and a grandson, who’s 2.

She now lives in Tallahassee, and enjoys water aerobics, walking, reading and crafts.

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