When we think of the smooth running of our schools and the success of students, we often think of the contributions of principals, teachers and coaches.

But behind the scenes, there are a plethora of unsung heroes whose work is just as integral to creating a positive educational environment. From instructional assistants and office workers, to food services workers, custodians, maintenance workers and bus drivers to security guards, technology specialists and skilled trades workers, today’s support professionals provide invaluable services that enable students to learn in a positive, supportive environment.

Today marks National Education Support Professionals Day – a day to celebrate the tireless work of the professionals who serve our students and community with care and professionalism. 

We recognize these individuals who are essential partners in creating great public schools – individuals like Sharon Smith, Irving ISD athletics administrative assistant. The 19-year employee of the district worked as a cashier at Irving High School for three years before transitioning to the district’s athletic office, where she is currently working her 16th football season.

In her role, she focuses on meeting the needs of the 180 coaches in the district, which entails coordinating transportation to games, ensuring workers are scheduled to work home games,  cutting the checks for the officials of games played at the district’s stadium and 11 campuses, ordering equipment, managing ticket sales, planning the district’s annual Hall of Fame banquet and other events, among many other duties. 

Her work behind the scenes often goes without recognition. But Billy Skinner, first-year head football coach and athletic coordinator at MacArthur High School, changed that.

Skinner nominated Smith for the North Texas Honda Dealers Community Helper Appreciation Award, sponsored by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine. The award shines a light on influential individuals who are helpful in their local communities and whose hard work and dedication to the school, teams and community often go unnoticed. 

“Since I have been in this role, Sharon has been extremely helpful to me,” says Skinner. “She serves relentlessly, and she always has a big smile on her face, even when I’ve made those rookie mistakes. I have probably asked the silliest questions, but she never made me feel like any question was dumb. She always has an answer or could point me in the right direction. I knew the most stressful part of this role was going to be the budget, and she just made it a breeze. She kept my mind at ease. Anytime I’d have a question, I’d go to her, and she is always so willing to help. And the fact that she does that for all of our coaches just blows me away. She is as good as they come!”

Smith was recognized at the MacArthur-Irving football game last week. Representatives of the North Texas Honda Dealers and Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine presented her with a commemorative football and a gift card.

“I have always had a servant attitude,” says Smith. “I’m happy working behind the scenes, making things work for people, so I don’t ever go into anything expecting to be recognized. But when someone takes the time to do it, it means the world to me. For Coach Skinner to do this is really special. He has so many other important things to do, like figuring out how to coach during a pandemic. The fact that he would take the time to do this despite all of that makes it extra special. I’m humbled by this. It makes me want to work that much harder because I know it makes a difference.”