ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County Public Schools just named its Support Person of the Year: Christina Pretorius, a paraprofessional working with deaf and hard of hearing pre-kindergarten students at Lake Sybelia Elementary School. It's her third time being nominated for the award at her school.
After 13 years of service at the school, Pretorious is popular for her involvement in so many activities. It's work she finds rewarding.
"I love what I'm doing," Pretorius said.
In her home country of South Africa, she taught second-graders, but after moving to the states with her family, she found new joy in volunteering and eventually becoming a paraprofessional at Lake Sybelia.
No matter what's going on in her busy pre-K classroom, Pretorius is there to assist the students and teachers with helping hands.
"I found a family that's what Lake Sybelia is for me. They see past color, they see past disability because of our diversity in our school. I feel like this is my way of giving back to the school that opened doors for me and my children." Pretorius said.
"She's so loving, caring, never loses her temper with the kids and it can be very stressful day-to-day. Always with love and compassion, she never sets a limit on what they can do, regardless of where they start," Orange County Teacher of the Year Chris Arenth said about Pretorius.
Arenth calls Pretorius an invaluable part of the classroom team.
"I couldn't do my job without her. She helps with planning, brainstorming different ideas. If I've forgotten something in the plan, she may catch it," Arenth said.
Pretorius is also proud of her sons who have followed in her footsteps and now serve as volunteers and mentors to young students.