Turner helps students succeed in para role at Park

Travis Turner owns a Library of Congress-sized list of interests ranging from music to horticulture to clothing trends.
That curiosity about the world has helped him make a top-shelf difference for dozens of Park Middle School students.
Turner is a paraeducator in Park’s in-school suspension/recovery room. He has influenced many people with his positive demeanor and has steered them in an upward direction. His ability to connect with students through a wide variety of subjects has been a valuable asset.
The Park alum said working at his former school has given him a chance to help students write new chapters in their lives.
“I enjoy being in the building,” Turner said. “You get to build relationships with a lot of students, and being able to work with mentors who taught me years ago has been really helpful. I’ve been able to tell students that Mrs. or Mr. told me things when I was in school and it worked, because now I’m in a position to help others. It helps me relay to them that they can do it too.”

Tanner Hilzer serves as the student support technician at Park. He said Turner was a good person to highlight on Education Support Professionals Day, which is being celebrated across America on Nov. 15.
“Travis makes a positive impact by being someone the students can count on during difficult situations,” Hilzer said. “He treats all students in a firm and calm manner and has high expectations for all of our students. Travis is an important part of the recovery room team and has become someone the entire school relies on.”
Pete Ferguson, coordinator of culture, inclusion and scholar development at LPS, praised Turner for his ability to assist students with their academic and behavioral needs. Ferguson and Turner first met when Turner was in seventh grade and a member of an African-American male group called Stock’s Up. The group made a pact that Turner still carries with him today: to respect, value, love and elevate both themselves and others around them.
“Although he is early in his educational career, he possesses many qualities of a top-notch educator,” Ferguson said. “His life journey has contributed to his ability to adapt, exhibit empathy and illustrate his current lifelong learning pursuit. He cares and invests in others. When one walks into his space he’s engaged (scholars or adults), and you sense his genuine passion for wanting others’ ‘stock’ value to rise.”

Turner’s family moved to Lincoln in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina devastated many parts of his hometown of New Orleans. He attended fifth grade at McPhee Elementary School and went to Park for middle school. He graduated from Southeast High School and knew he wanted to help others overcome their own obstacles.
Many in-school suspension/recovery room students have either fallen behind with their grades or have had behavior issues. Turner speaks with each person who comes into the room and learns about their background. Being outside of a classroom setting allows him to spend additional time having talks that are both hard and important.

Hilzer said Turner’s knowledge of the Park community and his personal history with adversity has helped him build bridges with current students.
“His life experience gives him the ability to have very real conversations about life outside of school,” Hilzer said. “As a former student, he is able to connect with our students on a different level and offers insight on what it’s like to be a student at Park.”
Turner was honored for his work last spring with the 2023 Alida M. Ferguson Black-African American Empowerment Educator of the Year Award. Pete Ferguson said his family wanted to show appreciation to educators like Turner who are essential to the culture of their school, district and community.
“As a 40-year educator with 19 years in Lincoln Public Schools, my mother embodied certain qualities that Travis also possesses – warmth, dedication and a focus on showing up for the needs of others even when you may be in deficit in the receipt of getting the respect, value and love you deserve,” Ferguson said. “Travis’ continued growth and expectation of excellence not just of others but himself align with the space my mother created in every classroom she engaged.”

Turner said it meant a great deal to be recognized by the Ferguson family.
“It was very surprising and gratifying,” Turner said. “I wasn’t as confident as I should have been before that, and that award really picked me up. It was an awesome feeling.”
Hilzer said Turner and other paraeducators make a significant difference throughout LPS each and every day.
“Paras are some of the most integral professionals in the building and are the glue of the school,” Hilzer said. “They allow teachers, counselors and admin team the ability to take on issues and situations that arise. Paras are tasked with the most difficult jobs and are often the least-recognized in the building.
“Paras offer a variety of background knowledge and training and bring many different perspectives to the learning environment. Many paras are selfless and have the interest of the students first.”
Are you interested in making a difference as a paraeducator or working in another role to help students at LPS? Stop by our upcoming interview fair on Nov. 27. Learn more about the fair and our employment opportunities on our careers page at https://home.lps.org/hr/careers/

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Published: November 15, 2023, Updated: November 15, 2023

Travis Turner smiles with the 2023 Alida M. Ferguson Black-African American Empowerment Educator of the Year Award. Turner has made a major difference for Park Middle School students with his work as a paraeducator. He is one of many LPS paraeducators who are being honored on Education Support Professionals Day.