Paraeducator Cassie Meacham
Paraeducator Cassie Meacham
Posted on 04/26/2018

Paraeducator Cassie Meacham
Diminishing barriers by teaching students the English language both socially and academically

Puyallup School District is home to over 1,500 students whose native language is not English. There are 73 different languages represented in the district’s English Language Learners (ELL) program. For one paraeducator, ELL students are the reason she comes to work every day. Cassie Meacham is an ELL paraeducator, also known as an ELL Instructional Assistant, at Wildwood Elementary.

Entering a new classroom at a young age while not being able to communicate with your teacher and your peers can be frightening. Cassie is dedicated to helping diminish their fears and teach students the English language. Some students come to school not knowing a single word of English. “My heart breaks for these kids. Most students are scared when they come in for the first time. I know how hard it is to learn a new language. I have tried, and I still haven’t mastered it,” said Cassie.

For students who only speak their native language, Cassie begins with picture cards to help the students learn some simple needs like “bathroom.”

“The ELL students all want to learn, every single one of them. I love that about them. They come willing and wanting to learn how to say and write things correctly in English,”
said Cassie.

Cassie works with multiple small groups of students throughout the day outside of their regular classroom. She teaches students the English language both socially and academically. Each student begins class by working on Smart Start (an academic vocabulary toolkit curriculum created by Dr. Kate Kinsella). Students have a couple of words they need to use from the week’s Smart Start “toolkit,” as well as another word of their choosing to make correct sentences. “This is a quick start to the day’s activities and to assess the knowledge of the word,” said Cassie. Student in front of class

Cassie didn’t start her career as an ELL Instructional Assistant. She began working in the district as a food service worker. After learning about paraeducators and the opportunities they have, she applied and was soon hired. Cassie worked as a playground supervisor before transferring into the HOSTS (Helping One Student To Succeed) program for the next four years. The following four years were spent in the preschool classroom at Stewart Elementary.

With both of her children attending Wildwood Elementary, Cassie applied for an open position at the school when the opportunity presented itself. It is there that Cassie found her niche. “I will never forget this one particular student I had. She came to me not knowing a word of English and she cried for the first two months of school. She wanted to learn so badly. This little girl was so determined to learn English that she graduated out of the ELL program the first year! I was so proud of her and I still am,” recalls Cassie. The care and compassion Cassie has is evident by her facial expression as she reflects back on the student.

Cassie is devoted to working with the children and takes a lot of pride in her job. Continuing to learn and grow for the benefit of the children is a priority for her. Cassie is trained in the Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD)[i] instructional model, attends the Washington Association for Bilingual Education (WABE) conferences, and took part in the Dr. Kate Kincella Academic Vocabulary Toolkit training, in addition to the hours of professional development she takes yearly to keep her skills sharp and current.

In addition to Cassie’s dedicStudent thinkingation, the success of the program is creating a positive relationship with the students. Every Monday and Tuesday Cassie and her students have lunch groups. They eat lunch, play games, and build relationships. Cassie states, “Every class and training that I have taken regarding ELL always emphasizes the relationship. Building the relationships. If you build the relationship of trust, they will be more successful.”

Services to students in the ELL program are based on the student’s individual level of instructional need, therefore the length of time in the program varies. Students on average are enrolled for three years.

Fourth grader Michelle Velazco-Gonzalez is one of Cassie’s students. When asked what she enjoys most about being in Ms. Meacham’s classroom she replied, “I like it when Ms. Meacham teaches me what I can put in my Smart Start kit and she is also really nice when we mess up.”

Cassie is one of 23 ELL paraeducators districtwide including both full and part-time. When asked if she has plans to transfer into a different position in the future Cassie replied, “I love the ELL program and the students. I plan on staying in the program until I retire!”

Cassie is the mother of two children, Brandon and Troy. Both boys attended Puyallup schools. Her son Brandon, works in quality control for O’Reilys and his wife, Samantha, is a paraeducator and works at Wildwood Elementary with Cassie. Troy is a teacher at Ballou Junior High and his wife, Ericka, is a teacher at Shaw Road. The Puyallup School District is certainly a part of the Meacham’s family.

For more information on the ELL program, visit the Puyallup School District’s English Language Learners webpage.

 

[i] GLAD is an award-winning effective instructional model for teaching English Language Development (ELD) and literacy. It is based on the extensive research base of second language acquisition, brain research, and effective literacy practices for second language learners.