As Exceptional Student Education program assistant at SunRidge Middle School, Joy Hamilton supports students academically and behaviorally. She strives to develop individual relationships and help students feel safe and valued. She has been nominated Support Person of the Year three times at SunRidge, but this year, she is a Support Person of the Year finalist for Orange County Public Schools.
What brought you to your school?
Before working for Orange County Public Schools, I was a program coordinator for the YMCA of Central Florida. (Because) children spend most of their day on campus, I decided to cultivate my youth development my skills in youth development to the school environment.
What do you love most about your school?
What I love most about my school is the common goal of student success shared between departments. For example, the collaborative effort from the ESE Behavior team, counseling team and discipline team to support students who struggle in the classroom, makes me feel like we are proactive in cultivating their emotional development, rather than reactive. To me, that is extremely important.
What is your motivation?
My motivation is simple — it’s the youth. Seeing them develop and strive to be the best version of themselves makes me want to do the same.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is watching the skills or tools that my colleagues and I implement into the students come to life. To know that they are absorbing the knowledge shared to them, whether for the classroom or amongst their peers, is a monumental reward in and of itself.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Rest. I work really hard, but I am a firm believer in resting. It is good for your physical and mental health. Anything that brings me peace, I do. This could be streaming TV shows or movies, reading, sitting out on the balcony, meditating and even cleaning!
Who was your favorite teacher when you were in school and why?
My favorite teacher in school is Mrs. Rudy. She was my second-grade teacher at a private school I attended, and she was the kindest woman I’ve ever known. She was always so gentle with us, even when I’m sure we frustrated her, and I strongly believe that has left an impression on how I connect with students today.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a doctor, specifically a pediatrician. Now that I’m an adult, I realize I’ve always wanted to help children the way adults helped me. However, as I got older, I realized being in the medical field wasn’t my calling and ultimately found another way to help kids.
What is your favorite children’s book?
“Junie B. Jones and Her Big Fat Mouth.” Honestly, the entire collection was a staple in my childhood. Junie was expressive and unapologetically herself, and I wasn’t used to seeing kids, especially girls, being portrayed that way in literature. Being authentic is a struggle for everybody, particularly children, and that’s why I believe it’s a life lesson we should never stop sharing.
What are your hobbies?
I have a wide range of hobbies but most of them lean toward creativity or the arts. I love to draw, color and paint. I also enjoy dancing, going to the movies with my family and biking the West Orange Trail with my sister and friends.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
If I had a superpower, it would be healing. I often wish I could heal the world. Get rid of the bigotry, disease, violence and poverty. I’m aware I could never heal all of humanity, but I try my best to spread love with whomever I cross paths.
If you could only listen to three bands or artists for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?
Dawn Richard, Fred Hammond and Rihanna. Dawn taught me resilience, Rihanna taught me authenticity, and Fred’s music got me through darker moments in my life. All of these artists helped shape who I am now.
What was your go-to lunch as an elementary student?
My go-to lunch in elementary school was a sandwich, chips, fruit or vegetable and a Yoo-Hoo! My favorite snack growing up was Ritz crackers with peanut butter. My sister and I ate them every day when we got home after school.
What is your favorite holiday and why?
My favorite holiday is Christmas. I always got to see my extended family on Christmas and eat good food. Obviously, the gifts were also a highlight as a kid, but now that I’m adult, being around my loved ones is what brings me the most joy.
Who was your best friend when you were in school? Are you still in touch?
I’ve had “best friends” in elementary and middle school, but I’d have to see my real best friend is my friend, Anthony. We met the summer before my junior year, when I left Edgewater High School, to attend summer school at Olympia High. We’ve been two peas in a pod (ever) since.
What were your extracurricular activities as a student? Did you win any accolades or honors?
I went to Gotha Middle School and led a student newspaper there called The Gotha Gazette. I also played the clarinet all through 12th grade. Marching band in high school was such a fun experience, and I wish I could go back and relive it one more time. As far as my academic success, I was always an Honor Roll student.
— Jim Carchidi
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