Mrs. Jill Schwartz ready to turn her next page

North Penn High School paraprofessional Jill Schwartz will retire in November. She recalls the joy in seeing students discover the joys in reading and learning.

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Mrs. Jill Schwartz ready to turn her next page

This special ed paraprofessional is special in more areas than one.

This special ed paraprofessional is special in more areas than one.

Olivia Hannigan

This special ed paraprofessional is special in more areas than one.

Olivia Hannigan

Olivia Hannigan

This special ed paraprofessional is special in more areas than one.

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TOWAMENCIN – “You’ll know when it’s time.” was a phrase Mrs. Jill Schwartz heard often when discussing retirement. Until this past year, she didn’t quite get what they were talking about. At the beginning of the school year, she announced that she would be retiring after 15 fulfilling years at North Penn. 

North Penn High School paraprofessional Mrs. Jill Schwartz started her career at Penn State as a sociologist. She had always taken an interest in psychology and wanted to find patterns in large groups of people; finding trends. Even then, she was doing so for the benefit of people- employees in large industries, more specifically. 

“There weren’t many jobs as sociologists,” she laughed. “So I began direct client service as a social worker.” She landed a job in direct client service in Montgomery county by then, serving the employed and underemployed of the area. She changed people’s lives as she helped teach them skills that would make them more appealing to businesses and industries, giving them higher income jobs and thus, a more comfortable lifestyle.

“At that time I was ready to start a family and had two children- I have a daughter who’s 32 and a son who’s 29- and so I was out of the workforce for a number of years,’  Schwartz reflected. By the time she was searching for another job, she needed to match up with their schedules- being there in the morning to send them off to school and back in the afternoon so they didn’t come home alone.  She worked in the Souderton School District for seven years as a teaching assistant and finally, onto North Penn. 

She was first assigned to room E132, a room that was used mostly for itinerant support, which was a working study hall for kids with IEPs. There, she helped kids with learning difficulties by reading out tests and helping them with homework. She quickly made a name for herself and helped out with an intervention program called Read 180. Read 180 was a program that took children with reading differences to make them stronger readers and help them read on grade level.

Most would say that there’s a sort of fascination, a magic when you find the perfect book for yourself. One you can’t let go of, one that makes you want to absorb every little word and piece of scenery until you can’t take any more. Even then, you go back for seconds. This was the kind of magic that Mrs. Schwartz gave her students. She took kids that weren’t very avid readers, children who would shrug those things off and say “y’know. I just don’t like reading”, and turned them into people who would ask her for more recommendations, more books to read.

“To take someone who was a reluctant reader and to make them into someone who can’t wait to turn the page,” she explained, “has been very fulfilling.”

She also worked with students with autism and other learning differences to ensure their success here at North Penn. A majority of her day is spent working with these children and helping them be their best person and make the most of their time here. She sees these cases as being her “most fulfilling and most challenging aspects of her professional life”. Given  her time here, she considers herself as a Paraprofessional, a partner in education- a title well deserved. 

Reflecting back on her career and the people she’s met, she has mixed feelings about leaving. 

“I do enjoy what I do, I enjoy the people I work with I enjoy spending time with young people,” Schwartz explained. 

She still looks forward to spending more time with her children in Virginia, attending seminars, and doing some self-enrichment. She also plans on taking this time to cook for her friends and family- an activity that she enjoys doing, and reading more books. “I enjoy music, I enjoy listening to live music, I just saw the Rolling Stones this summer- you may be surprised to learn- for the second time. I enjoy listening to all kinds of music but I look forward to learning about new kinds. Again, enrichment and personal growth I think is what I look forward to.” And when asked about any potential new hobbies, she shrugged. “I guess I’d have to wait for those opportunities,” she laughed. 

And the long-awaited question that always plagues the back of our minds: What’s next?

“What’s next? We never know. Today’s barely a guarantee,” she philosophized. “We never know what that next chapter really would be but y’know as being a certain age I’m grateful for my good health.”

“The thing I’m most proud of is how I raised two remarkable adult children, my kids are very compassionate and they have very strong moral compasses and if I’ve done that right, I think I’ve done the most important thing in life right,” she elaborated. 

“Over these 15 years, I have found some of the most remarkable people working here in all of the various roles it takes to make this school function as smoothly as it appears to,” she reflects. “I have worked with educators who have shown uncommon devotion to students as people and students as learners. The level of professionalism shown by my coworkers has continued to impress me all of these years. I am forever grateful for the support of my colleagues and have made many lifelong friends.”

If you pass Mrs. Schwartz in the hallways, or at a Rolling Stones concert, be sure to wish her luck on the rest of her journey from here on out. 

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