Bishops wins education support award

A Coupeville Schools employee won the Educational Support Professional of the Year award.

For years, many youths who had struggled to fit in at school, pass their classes and get a job could count on people like Aimee Bishop for help.

Bishop works as the registrar, secretary and case manager at Coupeville Schools’ Open Den program, and as the transition specialist, registrar and secretary for the district’s Juvenile Detention Center Education Program — or JDC Education Program.

Everyday, she helps Island County students experiencing different struggles in life that hinder their education, such as housing and food insecurity, lack of clothing, unemployment or difficult family situations.

Monday morning, what was supposed to be a day like any other turned out to be a memorable experience for Bishop when family, friends and leaders of the Washington Education Association surprised her with cake, flowers and a prestigious award.

Bishop’s dedication to students had in fact earned her an award from the association, the Educational Support Professional of the Year award. Until that morning, she didn’t even know of the existence of such a title.

“I’m just completely shocked and honored,” Bishop said in an interview.

Through the JDC program, Bishop helps students get back on track while they are in detention and after they are released, keeping in touch with the teacher and the probation center to ensure students are working on their assignments and re-enrolling following release.

The Open Den program, which came to be in 2014, assists youths aged 16 to 21 in getting their high school diploma through the Coupeville School District. Bishop works with teacher John Luvera and student support Claire Commons to help students who may have dropped out or may not be expected to graduate with their peers.

“We work with them until they get a passing grade in the classes, which is really big for students who have not felt successful,” she said.

Under the program, students can work towards their diploma at their own pace. In order to stay enrolled, students are required to attend school for a minimum of two hours a month and to complete one high school course every three months.

On top of taking care of paperwork pertaining to enrollment and transcripts, Bishop assists students with getting their state IDs, birth certificates and social security numbers; helps them develop resumes and submit job applications; contacts the students’ guardians and teacher to assist them in meeting the youth’s needs; delivers food and supplies to students who are struggling financially; advocates for students and listens to their stories in order to connect them with the right resources.

Both programs, she said, have changed the lives of many students for the better.

“Their resiliency blows my mind,” she said. “Some of their stories are pretty horrific and yet they still show up.”

Shelly LaRue is the president of the Coupeville Educational Support Association, which Bishop is a part of. To her, the award was more than deserved.

“Despite whatever circumstances bring (students) to her, they know she wholeheartedly cares for them with the dignity and respect they deserve,” she wrote in an email to The Whidbey News-Times.

Luvera described Bishop as an energetic, positive and selfless person who is passionate about helping youths, whose work is often unrecognized. He is confident that Bishop will represent the state’s educational support professionals very well.

In a statement sent to The Whidbey News-Times, Superintendent Steve King congratulated Bishop on behalf of the Coupeville School District.

“She is respected and appreciated by students, parents and staff members in our entire community because of her work ethic and kindness,” he wrote. “If there was ever an example of someone who goes above and beyond for students it is Aimee Bishop.”