PERRYSBURG – Lesley Baer knows what every student on her bus likes, what calms them when they are scared or agitated, who their parents and support personnel are, medical limitations, safety plans, and how best to communicate with them.
Those were among the reasons she was presented with Perrysburg Schools’ Shining Star award in November.
“You set the bar very high for a lot of employees,” said Courtney Parr, director of transportation, at the Nov. 20 board of education meeting.
Jeffery Pellerito, assistant director of special education, nominated Baer for the award.
“Mrs. Baer exemplifies the Jacket Way and demonstrates the characteristics honored through the Shining Star recognition,” he said. “Lesley drives students with significant disabilities to their educational providers and programs. She is an innovative problem solver and shows relational success with students who often could not be successfully grouped in a classroom setting, despite significant staffing and skill of the teaching staff. What makes this exceptional is, she forms these relationships and implements creative strategies and supports, while driving a bus down the highway.
“When stressful situations arise, she partners with transportation, special education, educational providers, service providers, parents, and even law enforcement with ease, confidence, and, above all empathy,” he said.
Baer’s role in a student’s educational success cannot be overstated; she is the lynchpin in connecting students to educational services who have multiple barriers to communication and transition, Pellerito said.
“Lesley can connect with a student using whatever methodology works for them. She understands that a student’s lack of verbal skills is not a lack of longing for human connection and relationships,” he said.
“She is a perfect example where depth of influence cannot be overstated or appreciated — she is a difference maker for a handful of students who need a warrior to overcome the challenges they face,” Pellerito said.
From a parent of a student who is nonverbal, board member Lori Reffert said “thank you.”
“Everybody needs a warrior like Jeff said, and we appreciate that,” she said.
“Kids can tell when you’re sincere and certainly you have that special something that students can identify with,” said Superintendent Tom Hosler.
The award is presented only twice annually to an employee who is nominated by his/her colleagues as a Shining Star of the school district. A panel representing a cross-section of the school district chooses the award recipient from a pool of nominees.