Paraeducators help students achieve
Paraeducators support students and staff
Posted on 03/16/2018
Paraeducators support students and staff

You can find paraeducators in every Puyallup school working tirelessly to help all students achieve social, emotional, and educational success.

There are nearly 400 of these dedicated staff throughout the district who are committed to supporting student achievement. Their contribution to students occurs in the classroom, during recess, on the school bus, in science labs, in the nurse’s office, at the crosswalk, in resource centers, and even in the hallways.

These educators have many different roles, some requiring very specific skills. Their work directly supports students, teachers, administrators, school staff, and parents. They serve students in general education, special education, Highly Capable, English Language Learners (ELL) programs, libraries, health rooms, and more. 

Examples of the contribution paraeducators make each day include:

  - instructing students individually and in groups under the direction of a certificated
    teacher;
  - helping students maintain positive behavior;
  - assisting in the evaluation of student needs;
  - maintaining student health
  - supervision of students;
  - preparing instructional materials;
  - serving as interpreters, providing support in special needs classrooms;
  - monitoring students on school grounds and enforcing rules;
  - bus safety; and
  - serving on building committees.

Paraeducators provide and facilitate individualized instruction to students that wouldn’t otherwise receive it due to large class sizes. They collaborate with teachers and support them in the work that takes place in classrooms.

Carie SaudersLongtime Paraeducator Carie Sauders serves as President of Puyallup Education Support Professional Employees and works with students in the Learning Assistant Program (LAP) at Shaw Road Elementary. She discussed the challenges paraeducators have faced in past years. “The jobs are not always consistent from year to year, depending on student enrollment and district funding. Despite the insecurity at times, they love their jobs and they are all about the students and they really care about them,” said Sauders.

She pointed out these uncertainties from year to year are also frustrating to teachers who are counting on the help. “‘I’m losing my para now what am I going to do?’ is definitely hard on them,” said Sauders.

Professional Development training is offered and utilized for all paraeducators. They are tested to ensure they meet state competencies. Depending on the assignment, some require additional education or qualifications. For example, paraeducators who work in Title I schools must be highly qualified — they require either an associate’s degree or must pass the paraducator professional test. Title I is a federal program that provides additional assistance to students needing academic support in math, reading, and English language arts to reach proficiency.

The legislature recently ESHB 1115 requiring all paraeducators become highly qualified by September 2019.

Opportunities have increased within the district in recent years in order to ensure paraeducators have access to the training they need. “It has always been key for us. This is not just professional development, it is RELEVANT professional development. The district has really stepped up their game in past five years to meet those needs,” said Sauders.

With the support of the district some paraeducators have chosen the path to become a certificated teacher. The district has provided a few different pathways for them to pursue their teaching certificate. Sauders noted there are many who are satisfied serving students in the current role they play in education.

"As paras we are educators and we focus on the whole student. We’re there for them — not just academically but emotionally, attending to physical needs in some cases, or even when they come to school hungry. We are staunch advocates for our students to get what they need to receive the best education possible."
Paraeducator Carie Sauders

 
This article is the first in a series of articles featuring paraeducators throughout the district.
Read about Firgrove Elementary School Support Paraeducator Teresa Johnson.



Nancy French
frenchnl@puyallup.k12.wa.us