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Mecah Washington, Special Education Paraeducator, Ducketts Lane Elementary School

Posted: February 1st, 2017

“Perhaps because I have been marginalized, I have an innate ability to see potential in others. I have an uncanny knack for reminding people of their unique abilities and how important they are to the bigger picture,” said Mecah Washington, special education paraeducator at Ducketts Lane Elementary School. Growing up as an African-American female in Baltimore City schools, Washington was encouraged by her mom to embrace friends from all walks of life and help knock down barriers. She has since made it her professional mission to build strong connections with all her students, so they can find their voices and receive a quality education.

Washington currently works with kindergartners, and 3rd and 4th graders in special education, so they can better access the curriculum, interact with their peers and attain critical life skills. She individualizes her approach for each student, whether the need warrants small intervention groups, focused Academic Life Skills programming, adapted technology, strategies to deal with frustration, educational games or other supports.

Washington calls her students her “friends” and “champions” to solidify relationships and build confidence. She said, “I like to meet them where they are and pull them up, so they feel successful, and I can incorporate things to build independence.” Washington sees her Strengths play out at work, especially “connectedness” and “individualization” with her focus on building relationships beyond the classroom. She’s also a “developer” by believing in the growth mindset and an “arranger” by preferring collaborative problem solving.

Ducketts Lane Principal Heidi Balter described Washington with: “Mecah Washington provides the perfect amount of nurturing and high expectations, so that our students with special needs may thrive. Mecah’s connection with her students, and her belief that each student can be successful, is really powerful. She works in a soft, respectful and calm way. It’s like magic.”

Washington has served as a paraeducator for 19 years, 16 in special education and 13 in Howard County. She worked at Harpers Choice Middle School and Stevens Forest Elementary School before taking on the challenge of opening Ducketts Lane as a new school. Washington said, “It was an exciting opportunity to meet new people, respect differences and embrace diversity since we’re a very diverse population. We could set the tone for the new things we wanted to do while trying to make it fun. And we all learn from each other, with no egos.”

Washington grew up in a family of educators and witnessed the beauty of education when everyone, especially those with special needs, is included in the classroom. In Washington’s words: “I grew up in a community filled with love and encouragement, which has sustained me throughout the challenges I’ve faced. This is why I feel connected to all people, regardless of any divisive category that is used to separate us. Just as my teachers invested in me, I feel it is my duty to invest in the development and success of my students.”

As a paraeducator, she has found a way to balance her career, her family–including three children in the HCPSS community–and her education. Washington is currently working on her bachelor’s in early childhood and special education at the Notre Dame of Maryland University with the goal of becoming a special education teacher.