Member Q&A: Paula Franklin

ATPE is proud of our diverse members and the hard work they put into educating Texas children! In this new Member Q&A series, we will showcase members from across the state. Today’s post features Paula Franklin from Galveston ISD.

What is your job title? Where do you work?

My title is special education instructional specialist for Galveston Independent School District. I work with all grade levels, and I am beginning my fourth year with the district. I train our staff on special ed software and programs, and I work in the classroom with the teachers and assist them in a variety of areas. I also work with our district curriculum team, bilingual and testing departments, and our Section 504 personnel. Because we are such a small district, we wear many hats in each department and we are a “hands on” administration.

How long have you been an ATPE member? Why did you choose ATPE?

I began my teaching career in 2008, after a 10-year career as a paralegal. I have been an ATPE member since then. I chose ATPE because I have a bachelor’s degree in legal administration. I knew I wanted representation that had immediate access to an attorney. Education law is very tedious, and I knew I wanted the best.

I never thought I would need the assistance of ATPE, but when I did, I worried about nothing. In the end, I came out on top and I was thankful for effective counsel. After that issue, many of my coworkers switched to ATPE because they had some similar issues, and saw the results.

Shortly after that, I switched districts and became an ATPE ambassador. Eight years later, I am the secretary of the Galveston local unit. This summer was my first ATPE Summit, and I loved it! We have a great team here in GISD.

What made you want to be an educator?

After 10 years in the law field, I grew tired of the same thing, day after day. I thought back to when I was working with kids at summer camp, and how much fun it was, and I decided to go back to school and become a certified teacher. I wanted to be able to spend time with my nieces and nephews instead of preparing for trials. I decided to get double certified in both general ed and special ed at the same time. Three years later, I found myself in graduate school. That decision led me to where I am today. It is the best decision I have ever made.

What advice would you give to a new educator coming into your position?

The advice I would give is to NOT stress about things you cannot control. For people with type A personalities like me, this is very hard. We are schedulers, and we need things done in a certain order. That isn't how education works. Also, take time to attend all the conferences and staff development that you can, and gain knowledge from others in the field. Don't be afraid to try something new.

What is your biggest hope for the future of Texas public schools?

My biggest hope is that public education will become important to our legislature. I am not a fan of vouchers or charter schools, and I never will be. These schools are often run by businesses, or private entities and are not subject to the same regulations or licensing as public schools. Students with disabilities are often not admitted to these schools, and in public school, we educate all students within our district boundaries, no matter the cost. Allowing vouchers to be used, and funding to be directed to private schools, takes more money away from our public schools. We have already seen major reductions in per-student spending across the board. It is time for our legislature to fight for the children of our state, and move away from the personal agendas. I’d like to know how many legislatures have children that are or were educated in Texas public schools. Perhaps then the line in the sand would be more clear.

I want our state leaders to respect educators and provide what our students need, regardless of what area a school is in. I look forward to being part of ATPE at the Capitol in Austin this year.

What is the most important thing educators can do for their profession?

The most important thing is to stay informed about what is happening in the legislature. Don't wait for things to be handed down to you—call your representatives, make your voice heard. We were victorious in lowering the number of STAAR tests our students must take to graduate high school. That was a direct result of educators and parents standing up for our students.

What’s your favorite Texas vacation?

My favorite Texas vacation is floating the Frio River and going to Garner State Park. I listened to many of my friends’ stories about their trips, and Jonathon and I finally went two summers ago. There is something so serene about crystal-clear water, no phones, and no wi-fi. Both of our careers are fast paced and stressful at times. When you are at Garner, it is truly a time to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery. There is nothing like it in the world.

Share your favorite moment as an educator.

My favorite moment as an educator… whew that is a tough one. I have so many amazing memories. I believe seeing my first group of student’s graduate was momentous. Although they are now adults, they will always be “my kids.”

A very close second was the first-ever Special Olympics Banquet that we threw for our team in Galveston last year. We revamped our team last spring and came home with 44 medals and ribbons. Watching our students be celebrated for their achievements at the Spring Games, instead of being told what they can’t do, was incredible. I will never forget seeing them walk, or roll, into their banquet dressed in their Sunday best.

I am truly blessed to love what I do for a living.

For more member stories, follow ATPE on Facebook and Pinterest. If you’re an ATPE member and you want to share your story, email comm@atpe.org for Member Q&A guidelines.

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