Hatch honored as 2021 Wyoming Special Education Paraprofessional of the Year
◆ Trudy’s kind and gentle manner has endeared her to the people she works with and serves.
Trudy Hatch, after ten years serving the Special Education students at Cokeville High School, has been honored as the 2021 Wyoming Special Education Paraprofessional of the Year by the Wyoming Department of Education.
Nominated by her peers and students, Trudy knew nothing of the award until she arrived at school on Monday morning, May 24, and learned that she was one of three finalists in the pool of candidates. Within minutes, she was in an interview by Zoom with the WDE, listening to her friends and students share their very personal feelings about her as a professional and as a friend. Later that evening, she received word that she had been selected as the Special Education Paraprofessional of the Year.
“It was quite a surprise,” Trudy quietly shared with SVI. “I was very appreciative of all those who wrote letters and nominated me. I didn’t have time to be nervous [about the interview] because I didn’t know until I got to school at 8 a.m. and my interview was at about 8:10. I would have been stressed all weekend if I had known.”
Prior to serving as a paraprofessional, Trudy taught as a substitute in the Cokeville schools for 14 years. Special education experiences won her heart, so when the opportunity came to work full-time in the Special Education Department at CHS, she jumped on it.
“Being able to see the kids that you work with succeed, and after they graduate, you see them being able to go on with their lives and have families and jobs, you feel like you succeeded with them,” Trudy said. “I love just seeing them succeed and the joy they feel when they succeed.”
“Trudy stands out as a paraprofessional because of the relationships that she has created with the students that she works with,” said Kristen Vierig, Special Education Teacher at CHS. “She is always willing to support them in their school activities as well as in whatever else they may be involved in outside of school.
She knows her students well and is able to recognize when they need help and when they need to be left alone to work things through independently. The students that Trudy works with trust and respect her because of the relationships she has built with them. This trust and respect not only come from our special education students, but also from all other students and staff that she works with. Every student in our school knows that Trudy has their best interest in mind and that she is willing to help anyone that needs it.”
There are countless stories of Trudy’s devotion to her students during her ten years as a paraprofessional, but one particular story inspired Vierig as she watched Trudy work her magic. Trudy was working this last year with a young senior who was having a hard time finding the motivation to attend school. She set time aside each morning to listen to his concerns and provide support for him as he worked through some difficult days. As wrestling season approached, the young man, who had wrestled in the past, hesitated to participate, because he feared he might fail in his goal to qualify for the state wrestling tournament. Trudy encouraged him to wrestle and to do his best. She promised that if he qualified for state, she would make the trip to Casper to attend the tournament and support him in person.
“Trudy not only encouraged this student through the season, but she followed through on her promise to be there for him,” said Vierig. “Trudy and this student have formed a bond that will continue for many years to come all because she took the time to take interest in him and encourage him to keep pushing through things that were really hard for him.”
Sheila Hunsaker, who worked with Trudy as the Special Education teacher for three years prior to Vierig, also recommended Trudy for her award. “Trudy is always focused on what is best for the students. In the classroom she works as an extension of the teacher, and she navigates the complex tasks of supporting students in a variety of settings while enhancing the learning environment. I know many nights that Trudy would take an Algebra book home and study in order to be prepared for lessons the following day. She is unselfish with her time and resources, often helping students that may need a new pair of pants, or a Christmas gift.”
Kirsten Keetch, a math teacher at CHS, shared her insights about Trudy. “Every student wants to work with her because of the positive nature she has and the confidence she builds in the kids. Every student feels empowered by how she helps.”
Lynne Pope, who serves as the secretary at CHS and CJHS shared the following about Trudy: “She has a unique way of helping the students feel valued. She worked with my son for four years as he went through high school. Trudy would help him understand the concepts that he needed to learn without doing the work for him. She made him feel important and intelligent without making him feel like he was less of a person compared to the other students.”
Tonya Hatch, who also serves as a Special Education Paraprofessional commented about Trudy’s willingness to go the extra mile. “She has always gone above and beyond for the students in our school. She is very observant and watches for the needs of all students, not just those she is officially working with.”
Marty Linford, CHS English and Spanish Teacher, praised Trudy saying: “She is always on top of things. She is always willing to jump in and do whatever is needed. In English, she is always right there to help her students, but she does more than that. I can rely on her to lead a discussion, teach a concept, or help edit a paper. She has made a lasting impression for good upon the students of Cokeville High School.”
Trudy’s kind and gentle manner has endeared her to the people she works with and serves, which is why she was so highly recommended by the team of individuals who nominated her in thanks for her devotion and many years of loving service.
Trudy plans to fill her retirement with road trips, cruises and following her 13 grandchildren. Her husband, Scott, who worked for 44 years at the coal mine in Kemmerer, also retired this spring. The couple plan to spend time with their family and take in the beauty and adventure of the world.
“I have loved working at Cokeville High School,” Trudy said quietly. “They have top-notch teachers. The teachers are the greatest. Mr. Toomer, the principal, was great to work with. I just learned from the experience of watching them. They all care about the kids, and they want what’s best for them. They were wonderful to work with. I will miss them, and I will miss the students. There were hard days, but the good days far outnumbered the hard days.”