Education Paraprofessionals, sometimes called paraeducators, classroom assistants, or teacher aides, are special-education workers who work both individually with students and organizationally within the classroom. A paraprofessional is a support role that typically works with students as a part of their Individualized Education Plans (IEP) or 504-plans. Paraprofessionals, while sometimes underappreciated, are often a key component in helping many children achieve within the classroom.
Here’s what you should know about paraprofessionals:
- Paraprofessionals play many different roles within the education setting. Some of these roles include:
- Provide instructional support in small groups of students
- Provide one-on-one instruction/assistance
- Provide personal care assistance
- Implement and monitor behavioral management plans
- Collect data
- Collaborate with parents and school staff
- Assist teachers in preparing classroom materials and modifying assignments
- Monitor lunch period, hallways, study halls, etc.
- While paraprofessionals typically work with student who receives special education, general education students may also work with a paraprofessional.
- Paraprofessionals are typically trained to step in and assist if a crisis arises.
- For students with BIP or behavioral intervention plans, a paraprofessional typically watches them during the school day and observes their behavior. This is helpful for providing insight into student’s behavior.
- Paraprofessionals may work with students who have physical challenges. A paraprofessional can help students with physical disability eat, move or use the bathroom.
- Paraprofessionals also work with students that need medical support. For example, they may support or assist students who have severe allergies or are at risk for seizures. In some situations, paraprofessionals may work with the school’s nurse to help ensure that their student receives proper medial attention.
- While paraprofessionals typically come from a variety of backgrounds, they must have the proper knowledge and skills to work successfully with children. Most importantly, they should enjoy working with children, keep a positive attitude, and be a team player.
- In 2001, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) expanded the qualifications necessary for being a paraprofessional. While specific qualifications vary from state to state, paraprofessionals are now required to:
- Obtain a secondary school diploma or its recognized equivalent
- Complete two years of study at an institution of higher education; or
- Obtain an associate’s (or higher) degree; or
- Meet a rigorous standard of quality and be able to demonstrate, through formal State or local assessment, knowledge of and the ability to assist in instructing, reading, writing readiness, and mathematics readiness.
Overall, a paraprofessional’s job is extremely important and often makes a huge difference in students’ educational accomplishments and experiences. Not only do they help students’ better grasp learning concepts, but also help instill a greater appreciation for school and learning as well. Lastly, while it is not necessarily a glamorous position, paraprofessionals often find a great deal of gratification and pride in what they do.