“Ms. Pope was a ray of sunshine every day, regardless of the weather, cheerfully encouraging students who successfully worked out a problem to, ‘Hug your brain!’” — Elizabeth Jarrett, principal of P.S. 154 Harriet Tubman in Harlem, talking about paraprofessional Linda Pope, who died of Covid-19 in April 2020.
For twenty-six years, students with special needs at P.S. 154 knew they could always count on Ms. Pope for support and a smile. Every morning, she would sit with her children in the cafeteria to make sure they ate their breakfasts and began their day on a bright note. And when she walked down the hallways, she would stop at every classroom door to wave to the kids inside.
After Ms. Pope passed away, colleagues and family members of her students posted dozens of on-line tributes to her, all conveying how her positivity brightened their lives.
Just a few examples:
“I feel so fortunate to have worked with Ms. Pope this year at 154. She was so wonderful to me and was absolutely dedicated to her students.” — David Love
“Ms. Linda Pope had a heart of PURE gold, and a laugh you could hear down the hall. I was so blessed to work with her in Kindergarten at P.S. 154. Days in our class were full of love, life, light, and laughter. She was so dedicated to our students, her friends, and her family, and she loved her job.” — Lauren Ginsberg
“When I first arrived at Harriet Tubman Learning Center as a self-contained special education teacher, Ms. Pope was the paraprofessional with me. She made me feel welcomed and helped me out immensely. This year she was the para in my class again, and the students and I will miss her dearly. The kids absolutely loved her — all of them. She could be a tough cookie, but she also had a nice warm smile and was extremely helpful and accessible. We will miss her so much.” — Michael Nevarez
Students with special needs thrive with the care and support of special educators, and for twenty-six years Ms. Pope was an exceptionally special member of the P.S. 154 community.