SOUTHINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut’s 2024 Anne Marie Murphy Paraeducator of the Year is a paraeducator in Southington.

Inspired by how special education benefited her son and family, Dawn Dickau started her career in 2014.

“She does a good job having them learn to be independent, but yet knowing when to step in and provide that support when it’s needed,” said Chris Palmieri, the principal of Joseph A. DePaolo Middle School.

The selection committee had five candidates, which they said was not an easy job. The selection committee said all the candidates displayed top qualities for this award.

“She was selected because of her excellence and the work that she does, but we also look for someone who would be a good spokesperson for the profession,” said Sharon Fuller, an education consultant with the State Department of Education.

The school said that throughout the school year, Dickau took the extra steps to be there for her students. For one student, she learned braille to help meet his needs.

“I had to learn to read and write braille and all the other technologies and such that go along with assisting a blind student,” Dickau said. “It was like learning a new language.”

The celebration for Dickau was held in the middle school auditorium. Students, staff and even Gov. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.) joined the ceremony to honor Dickau.

Lamont described Dickau’s work as life-changing. 

“She made sure that young man had the very best opportunities in life, and I think that’s what our para’s do, worry about kids who are disconnected, not coming back to school,” Lamont said. “Paras are one reason why they get in the schools and stay in the game.”    

The Anne Marie Murphy Paraeducator of the Year Award annually recognizes paraeducators across Connecticut, like Dickau, who work hard to help students succeed.

Dickau will be recognized again in November at the Connecticut Teacher of the Year ceremony, along with the 2024 Connecticut Teacher of the Year and district Teachers of the Year.