South Orange Middle School Security Guard Gets New Post — in a Classroom


Omar Ortega starts new career as a paraprofessional

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From the South Orange-Maplewood School District: 

SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. – For the past year, students and staff at South Orange Middle School (SOMS) have been greeted at the front door by Omar Ortega’s bright smile. Now, they’ll have to go further into the building to see that smile.

That’s because Ortega, who has worked the past year as a security guard, is now a teaching paraprofessional at SOMS.

“When I saw they were looking for help, I decided to give it a try,” said Ortega, a 2014 graduate of Newark’s American History High School. “Everybody’s excited about it. I guess I made a good choice.”

Currently, Ortega is working one-on-one with a student who has autism in Teacher Ashley Saraceno’s self-contained classroom for students with autism who are in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.

“I know the students really miss seeing him at the security desk, but we are very lucky to have him in our classroom!” said Saraceno. “He has a great rapport with the students and is very patient and flexible. He has only been with us for a few days but we are extremely happy to have him.”

Ortega, who previously worked as an inspector of petroleum ships for three years before starting as a security guard, is currently learning how to collect data and modify work for his student outside the classroom, Saraceno said.

Dr. Kevin F. Gilbert, Acting Superintendent of the South Orange and Maplewood School District, congratulated Ortega on his career change.

“Working in service of the education of young people is a real vocation, and I’m so glad that Mr. Ortega has received that calling. Many of us in the District have come to know Mr. Ortega’s warmth and friendliness. I know he has the heart to encourage our students to do their best and keep them moving forward on the road to academic success.”

Lynn Irby Hill, Principal of South Orange Middle School, said she was proud to have Ortega as one of the school’s paraprofessionals.

“Mr. Ortega has become a pillar of the SOMS community through his work ethic and dedication to doing everything he could to keep everyone safe,” Irby Hill said. “ I have no doubt that Mr. Ortega will be successful in the classroom, and I am so glad to have him among our paraprofessional staff.”


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