What Is a Paraeducator?

What Is a Paraeducator?
Posted on 02/04/2016

Educating the children of the Menomonie Area is a responsibility shared by parents, the school district, and our community.  In our school district, many employees have a tremendous impact on teaching our students and providing each of them with a well-rounded educational experience. Teachers are probably the first employee group that comes to mind when thinking about schooling, but custodians, cooks, clerical staff, administrators, and other support staff members play a very important role in School District of Menomonie Area’s success in educating our kids. This column will discuss the important role that paraeducators have in our school district.

What is a paraeducator? Paraeducators (paras) are school employees that work under the direction of a licensed staff member to assist in providing instruction and other services related to students. There are federal and state laws regulating the use and qualifications of paraeducators, including the new federal law entitled The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). According to regulations, paraeducators are to be “highly qualified” and receive proper training to fulfill their role in our schools.

Just like teachers, paraeducators wear many hats throughout the day, especially in the critical areas of special education and intervention programming. The roles and responsibilities are different for virtually every para in the district, varying from classroom to classroom and from school to school, based on the particular needs of students. In addition to providing support in many undefined ways, paraeducators in the School District of the Menomonie Area (SDMA) may be observed:

  • Implementing teacher-planned instruction (supporting all subjects throughout the day and providing accommodations to enhance the learning process).

  • Supervising students.

  • Providing behavioral supports (following behavior plans set up for students, which may include data collection, prompting, re-teaching, and reinforcements).

  • Building & maintaining effective communication and relationships. 

  • Building a safe and healthy learning environment.

  • Supporting individual student needs (assisting with transitions, organization, or curricular needs).

  • Providing small group teacher-planned instruction (may include re-teaching, or small group support for learning and testing).

  • Providing personal care (assisting with hygiene and medical care).

  • Providing information to teachers, principals, and other staff regarding student academic or behavioral needs.

  • Assisting with data collection.

Paraeducators are critical partners in meeting the needs of the whole child. In addition to supporting teachers and the curriculum being taught, paras build relationships with students and staff in an effort to best meet the needs of students. 

Should school stakeholders have any questions about becoming a paraeducator in the SDMA or about anything else in our school district, I invite you to visit the Administrative Service Center on Pine Avenue or contact me at 715-232-1642. More information about our schools can be found on the school district website (www.sdmaonline.com) and on Twitter (www.twitter.com/sdmaonline).

Acknowledgment: Thank you to Menomonie Middle School Paraeducator Lynn Goss for contributing to this article.