Meet Gloucester County ESP of the Year Debra DiJohn
The 2022 Gloucester County ESP of the Year Debra DiJohn started her career in the corporate world managing a payroll company. When her first child was seven months old, her sister-in-law saw a job posting for a secretary to the director of Elementary Education in Washington Township Public Schools and encouraged DiJohn to apply. Despite the massive pay cut, DiJohn felt it was the right move for her family. As she told the district during the interview process, she couldn’t think of a better place to be than in her own school district, close to home, and having the same days off as her children.
When her older child was four years old, DiJohn transferred to Bunker Hill Middle School, where she continues to serve as secretary.
“This is a large district, but it felt very familiar to me,” DiJohn said. “I love my job and the people I work with. We have a great culture; it’s like a big family. We all have each other’s backs and are there for each other. You walk down the hall and see so many friendly faces. The people in our building—teachers, administrators, support staff, other secretaries—we all work together.My colleagues make me want to be a better person and support the school in any way that I can.”
DiJohn saw many benefits to working in the schools while her sons were growing up, but one of them was the support from her school community.
“When my sons had struggles, I was able to get help for them,” DiJohn said. “The teachers gave me tools to help them succeed. My children didn’t attend the same school I worked in, and that gave us some independence.”
DiJohn’s younger child, a college student, is working as a paraprofessional in the same school where DiJohn works. He was able to be there the day that DiJohn was awarded 2022 Gloucester County ESP of the Year, an honor that DiJohn truly appreciates.
“It was amazing to be named the Gloucester County ESP of the Year,” DiJohn said. “It felt like justification for everything that I’ve done over the years for my school and the staff. It felt like everything I’ve done has been noticed and appreciated. I have always felt appreciated by my colleagues, but it meant the world to me to be recognized at this level. I felt like the work I do really does matter.”
DiJohn believes strongly that the entire school team is responsible for creating a safe, healthy, and encouraging environment so students can succeed.
“The teachers are in the classroom with students every day, but there’s a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes every minute of every day that the support personnel take care of,” DiJohn said. “The secretaries, principals, technology department, everyone is doing their job to make sure that the teachers are able to concentrate on the students in their classrooms. Teachers have a lot on their plates, and we want to make things as easy and seamless as possible.”
As DiJohn summed it up, “There’s a difference between having a job and having a job that you love, and I absolutely love my job.”