She struggled with undiagnosed dyslexia throughout high school and eventually dropped out.
But Wednesday, Annie McClintock was honored at the White House for her achievement in the classroom as a special education assistant at Harborfields High School.
McClintock, 59, who assists teachers at Harborfields High School in Greenlawn, was recognized along with 11 other school support employees from across the country as part of the “Champions of Change” program.
“School support professionals often don’t get paid all that well and many of us have to work multiple jobs, but we’re what keep schools and communities together,” McClintock said before the 2 p.m. ceremony.
McClintock, of Northport, has worked as a special-education teacher assistant since 2000 and last June was named the 2015 School-related Professionals Member of the Year by New York State United Teachers.
But she said it took time for her to “discover a love of learning.”
McClintock’s dyslexia went undiagnosed throughout her childhood and, as a result, she said she hated going to class and dropped out of high school. After she was finally diagnosed, she earned her GED at age 34 and is currently working toward her bachelor’s degree in labor studies at SUNY Empire State College.
“When I was in school, there wasn’t the support for students with learning disabilities that there is now,” she said. “But because of my learning disability, I feel like I have a connection with the kids that I work with, and can recognize their strengths and abilities.”
At the White House ceremony Wednesday, Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, thanked the honorees for their years of service as “unsung heroes.” The school support professionals were later invited onstage to discuss some of their challenges and successes in the classroom.
“You are the individuals that help our students discover, dream, believe and also realize the potential that our nation’s promises hold,” said Monique Chism, a representative from the federal Department of Education. “ . . . You are passionate about helping students realize the best versions of themselves.”
McClintock also regularly volunteers with the Huntington Interfaith Homeless Initiative, a nonprofit that provides services for low-income and homeless families. For the past eight years, she’s helped the organization assemble over 250 bagged lunches and breakfast sandwiches every week.
Harborfields Superintendent Diana Todaro said in a statement that McClintock “Not only is . . . a dedicated professional within the district who helps countless children, but her dedication to helping the homeless in the Huntington area is inspiring to us all.”