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When a stranger entered the classroom of Commons Lane Primary School Instructional Aide Janice Wooten, little did she know she was about to receive one of the biggest surprises of her career.  Wooten asked the stranger if she was her replacement to oversee the kindergarten class that she had been assigned. At that point, FFSD Superintendent Joseph Davis and other district staff revealed themselves with balloons and a bouquet of flowers announcing Wooten had been selected as the district’s 2021 Support Staff Employee of the Year.  Wooten was overcome with shock and gratitude.

“Ms. Wooten has outstanding relationships with our students. She cares deeply about them and is constantly checking in on them to see how they are doing, said Douglas Wright, assistant principal at Commons Lane. “When given a task to help out in the building, Ms. Wooten follows through and wears many hats. Ms. Wooten is a huge asset to Commons Lane.”

Wooten’s entry as an instructional aide came in a round-about way.  She was previously employed with the district as a food service manager but resigned from the position to care for a family member. While working other employment, Wooten decided to return to school and FFSD as an instructional aide.  She is currently pursuing a degree in early education.  “The kids encourage me to continue my education,” said Wooten.

During this mostly virtual school year, Wooten has assisted three of the school’s kindergarten teachers.  She said if her kindergarten scholars didn’t have what they needed, she found it and even delivered materials to their homes. “Even on Zoom, I do the work with them,” said Wooten.  “I don’t just sit there, I lead by example.”

According to Commons Lane colleague Ashley Jones, Wooten is the type of instructional aide every school deserves. “She steps up to the plate in all areas and gives her best.”

Wooten says her philosophy to success is being honest, dedicated and committed. “Whatever I put my hands into, it will be my best,” she said.  “If I run into a challenge, I examine myself to see what it is that I can do to overcome that challenge.  I know my why.”