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Richter named Columbia’s top staffer

Annabel Richter, Columbia Elementary School's Staff Member of the Year, vacations on the island of Mallorca, Spain in this photo. (CONTRIBUTED)
Annabel Richter, Columbia Elementary School’s Staff Member of the Year, vacations on the island of Mallorca, Spain in this photo. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Annabel Richter has been named Staff Member of the Year at Columbia Elementary School.

While honored, Richter believes any worker in special education could have won the award, saying, “Everyone deserves special recognition for their work and dedication.”

Richter, a teacher and another para-professional work as a team with special-needs students in a self-contained classroom. She assists with curriculum in small groups and one-on-one and helps students with toileting, feeding and implementing Individualized Education Program (IEP) directives.

“Every day is a challenge in the classroom. We have students (with various) disabilities and unique needs. I’m proud we all work well as team,” Richter said.

In the past 12 months, Richter’s team assisted “a student to use the toilet and communicate his needs.” By year-end, “we had finally made great gains. To some, these may seem small but are huge in our field.”

Seeing students’ progress is Richter’s major reward. “Progress is often slow and incremental,” she said. During two or three years with students, she can establish close relationships and collaborate to reach their goals.

Anticipating students’ needs daily is challenging, she said. Many students are nonverbal or have limited communication skills. “This job allows me to see these students break through and shine in their own way,” Richter said.

A motivation for Richter, her high school politics/history teacher, Mrs. Larkin, “looked like Queen Elizabeth II.” Larkin invited students to her house for tea and discussion of essays and politics.

“At the time, I was very radical in my politics. Mrs. Larkin always listened and reminded me to state both sides of an argument,” Richter said about advice to reach unbiased conclusions.

Richter earned a bachelor’s degree at University of North London, England. She also studied at the University of Quito in Ecuador and earned ELL certification at Skola Language School in London. She has worked in London; Quito; Amsterdam, Holland; and at the University of Miami (Fla.).

Her husband Drew works as a data analyst for Qualitiest Pharmaceuticals. Their son Jack is a junior at Bob Jones High School.

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