Para News

What's in a Name?

By Anna Lou Pickett

THE NATIONAL RESOURCE CENTER IS CHANGING ITS NAME.During the latter half of the 20th century, several events took place that led to dramatic changes in our nation’s schools. To address critical shortages in the ranks of licensed teachers that began in the 1950s, a few schools began to employ “teacher aides” to assist teachers with non-instructional tasks.

This new group of school employees performed clerical tasks, monitored playgrounds, lunchrooms, and hallways, prepared bulletin boards, and carried out other activities designed to enable teachers to meet the educational needs of all students. At the same time, parents and other advocates joined forces to gain access to education and other community based services for children and youth with developmental disabilities as alternatives to state operated institutions.

Parent operated schools employed teacher aides to enable teachers to provide personalized services for students who could benefit from additional support. The mid 1960s ushered in Title I, Head Start, and other compensatory programs designed for students from diverse language and cultural heritages, or educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. These new programs required “teacher aides” to perform more complex responsibilities in addition to their non-instructional tasks.

Over time, school districts adopted additional titles to more accurately describe teacher aide roles, responsibilities, and contributions. In the 1960s, several educators suggested the term “Para”, a Greek word meaning “alongside of”. The term “paraprofessional” recognized the functions that were being performed by “teacher aides”. This does not mean that districts stopped referring to this group of employees as “teacher aides”. Indeed there are numerous titles including: instructional, educational, or teacher assistant, occupational, physical therapy, speech-language aide, health care aide, job coach/transition trainer, intervener for learners who are deaf-blind. These are just a few of the titles for school personnel who work alongside teachers and other professional practitioners.

In 1989, Anna Lou Pickett, the founder and first director of the National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals suggested that the term “PARAEDUCATOR” be used to more accurately describe the nature of today’s “teacher aides”. Paraeducators support and assist teachers and other practitioners in various disciplines, just as their counterparts in law and medicine are designated as paralegals and paramedics.

We at the NRCP agree. Using a common term will enable us to more effectively achieve our goals. A common language will help us to develop strategies to gain the attention of policy makers, administrators, personnel developers, and other stakeholders with responsibilities for ensuring all educators including PARAEDUCATORS perform their assigned tasks to strengthen the performance of education teams.

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Para Spotlight: The Dynamic Foursome

Story submitted by Taya Johnson, Behavior Specialist, Davis Special Education Department
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Ask almost anyone in the Davis School District if they are aware of a team of Paraeducators who appears to have super-human powers for working with behaviorally challenging students and you will be told, “Yes!” The job title for these talented paraeducators is “District Behavior Interventionists” but in reality they are known as “The Behavior Ladies.” The team consists of Marie Wise, Jan Pace, Kathy Prewett, and Kathy Chartier. These ladies are paraeducators who shape, manage, and consistently change the difficult behaviors of the most challenging students.

Marie, Jan, Kathy, and Kathy (“The Kathy’s”) have been together as Behavior Interventionists for almost 5 years. They each bring a unique set of skills and abilities to the team but collectively focus on helping all children succeed in school.

Marie is the most casual of the four but she always comes up with just the right strategy for helping highly agitated students. She makes managing a Jr. High age student in the middle of a tantrum look easy and maintains an impressive “poker face” during any student crisis. Marie has been spit at, bitten, kicked, and hit but comes back to work the next day with a positive attitude and determination to help the student understand that he or she can succeed and be happy at school.

Jan is full of common sense and organization. She reminds our team of what we should be doing and improvements we can make. Jan is our “go to” person on autism spectrum disorders and has an incredible knack for working with students on the spectrum. She works relentlessly with students who have frustrated other school staff and is able to see each student's potential. Jan fiercely loves each child and kindly pushes them to be their best.

Kathy Prewett is our clown and activist. She makes us laugh and allows us to laugh at her as well. However, she is extremely serious about assisting students who struggle at school. She ensures that even the most difficult students see themselves succeed. Kathy implements positive interventions with great detail and makes sure each aspect of a student’s day is full of support, direction, and accomplishment.

Kathy Chartier is our data, research, and detail queen! She documents and researches everything we do. She keeps us informed and rooted in best practices. Kathy uses her knowledge functionally for students and jumps at the chance to help with very difficult classroom and school situations. Kathy never backs down from a challenge and advocates tirelessly for every child.

Individually and as a team these ladies are incredible educators. It is amazing to watch them work! In the Davis District we often wish we had a dime for each time someone has suggested we “clone” them so we could have a person like them in each of our schools. We truly consider Marie, Jan, Kathy, and Kathy our “Dynamic Foursome.”

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Opening 2011 Conference Keynote from Marilyn Likins and Gina R. Scala

Keyed In, Logged On, Charged Up!Paraprofessionals Connecting with 21st Century Learners

The conference started off this morning with the opening keynote address from Marilyn Likins and Gina R. Scala. Gina talked about knewly revised Knowledge & Skill Standards for Paraprofessionals from CEC (coming soon) and the importance of being involved in legislative issues. Gina challenged everyone in the audience to send a letter to a legislator once a week.

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
~Harry S. Truman

Marilyn then reviewed the work fo the National Paraeducator Leadership Forum last summer and the top 5 paraprofessional issues that they worked on and some of the common challenges:

  • Clarification of roles and responsibilities
  • Lack of awareness:
    • State and local adminstrators
    • Legislators (state and national)
    • Teachers
  • Lack of leadership at national, state and local level
  • Inflexiblility of higher education structures & restrictions
  • Funding to support research and training
  • Insufficient research

“Coming together is a beginning.
Keeping together is a process.
Working together is success.”
~Henry Ford

Regarding advocacy, they reminded everyone that, “You must be at the table or you will be on the menu”

Their full presentation is embedded below:

Look for more presentations later today and in the coming days!

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Conference Coming Soon- Hotel Discount Extended!

The 2011 Conference is quickly approaching and we are looking forward to seeing many of you in Harrisburg in just 3 weeks!

If you haven't yet reserved your hotel room, the Sheraton let us know today that you can still get the special conference rate, but it is only available by contacting Lisa Chenoweth directly at 717-558-4607 or by e-mail at Lisa.Chenoweth@sheratonhershey.com.

If you still haven't decided on whether or not you would like to attend, check out this list of 5 reasons why you won't want to miss this year's conference:

The opportunity to:

  1. Meet and network with paraprofessionals from other states.
  2. Attend diverse workshops covering ELL, special and general education, reading, writing, behavior management, nutrition and much more.
  3. Learn techniques for improving student behavior and academic performance.
  4. Earn up to 15 In-Serivce or ACT 48 Hours and 1 University Credit.
  5. Discuss paraprofessional training and career development with local, state, and national leaders.

Register Today!

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"The Demanding Classroom" Writes about Paraprofessionals

Sara and Richard Finegan

The Demanding Classroom is a blog run by husband and wife team Sara and Richard Finegan and they have put together a great series of posts on paraprofessionals.

You can view all of their paraeducator posts at this site, a few of which are highlighted below:

It's great to see people writing about paraeducator issues. If you have a blog that you have written about paraeducators, please let us know about it.

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Paraeducator Diane Sangelo Given a Thank You on Oprah

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Diane Sangelo worked with Rago Blair's son Isaac Rago from grade school all the way up through high school. She developed a special bond with Isaac over the years as she helped him to go from a wheelchair to walking on his own and learning basic sign language to communicate. Her devotion has extended beyond the classroom, spending time with Isaac on weekends and even taking him to summer camp.

Isaac's mother, Jeana Rago Blair wanted to say thank you and submitted a short essay about her son's paraeducator to the Oprah Winfrey Show. The show responded with tickets for both of them to attend Oprah's "Favorite Things" show where Oprah handed out thousands of dollars worth of merchandise to everyone in attendance including an iPad and a new car.

Here's a great quote from this article:

"She has a gift for seeing the potential these kids can make in society," Rago Blair said. "My son would not be the young man he is today without her in his life."

Read all about it:

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Back to School Special

We recently came across a couple of stressful accounts from paras of their first day back from school:

I'm a paraeducator for children. Today was our first day. I am praying for patience. Not with the kids. The kids are great. My stress levels are so high after this morning, that I have a horrible headache, and my shoulder is killing me from being tensed for so long. (from Lord, it's Monday)

And this one...

So, today was the first day back to work. It should come as no surprise to anyone who works for any big company/school/corporation, that no one knows where my job is going to be yet. I’ve been told not to worry, I have a job, they just don’t know where yet. (from Irene's Weblog)

We thought it might be nice to provide you with a little bit of back to school inspiration from around the web:

I Believe in Me, Do You Believe in Me?

First off, this video from a young man names Dalton Sherman titled "I Believe in Me, Do You Believe in Me?" is our most popular post on the site that we have ever posted. If you haven't seen it, it is definitely a must-see as you start the school year.

Back to School Facts

This Fact Sheet from the Census Bureau has all kinds of interesting back-to-school facts. Did you know that:

  • Among K-12 students, 87% of students with a parent or other household member attended a general school or PTO/PTA meeting during the 2006-07 school year.
  • 10.9 million school-age children who speak a language other than English at home.

Back to School Guides for Parents

If you are a parent sending a child back to school, there is some great information from the Federal Citizen Information Center on going back to school. That page includes a list of the top 5 reasons students miss school (Watch out for cold season). Also check out this back-to-school guide from Consumer Reports

More Resources

What do you do to lower the stress of a new school year? What do you spend most of your time doing the first few days of school?

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Early Bird Conference Registration Now Available

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We have been preparing for the National Paraprofessional Conference in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on May 12th-14th, 2011 and now so can you.

The Early Bird Conference Registration is now open and offers significant savings over the regular priced tickets, take a moment to review the options for registration and signup today!

The conference will be held at the Sheraton Harrisburg Hershey Hotel in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Help Spread the Word

Please help us spread the news about the 2011 conference by by downloading this Save the Date document with some basics about the conference that you can share with anyone who might be interested.

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Save the Date! (2011 National Conference)

May 12, 2011

The NRCP 2011 Paraprofessional Conference has been scheduled for:

May 12-14, 2011

At the Sheraton Harrisburg Hershey Hotel in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The Call for papers will be posted soon and additional information will be forthcoming.

Sign up for our newsletter to receive conference updates in your inbox!

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A First Year Teacher Finds a Hero in Her Paraeducator

Tami and Mrs M

A teacher named Tami recounts an experience from her first year of teaching:

My kids continued to grow and develop as learners in a happy and caring classroom community.

I cannot however, take credit for all their success.

I had a para educator who was in my classroom most of the day, specifically for 3 of my special needs kiddos.

Her name is Mrs. M.

She was my right hand gal. She was my sounding board, keeper of the peace, and most importantly my friend. It sounds silly, but I couldn't have done it without her! (And until you encounter the title of teacher in a multi-age class with 27 (and soon 29) kids... you don't know the full truth of that statement!)

She then goes on to tell us that Mrs. M was diagnosed with breast cancer:

Tests were taken, surgery performed, a breast removed, chemo started, and one very sick lady left behind.

My classroom wasn't the same without her. We all missed her.

Tami then tell us why she admires Mrs. M and declares her "my hero".

Thanks for sharing Tami!

First Year

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100 Essential Blog Posts for the First-Year Teacher

We recently came across a post titled
100 Essential Blog Posts for the First-Year Teacher. While geared towards teachers, the list includes lots of great posts for anyone involved in education. Categories include Working with Student, Teaching, Classroom Management, Using Technology in the Classroom, Resources, Going Green in Schools, Education Reform and The Future of Education.

Going through the list we came across great posts such as Catch Them Doing the Right Thing and More Classroom Ideas for Old Fashioned Index Cards.

Do you have a blog where you talk about paraprofessional issues? If so, leave us a comment below!

100 Essential Blog Posts for the First-Year Teacher via Successful Teaching

(Also check out this list of 50 Amazing Videos Every Educator Should Watch)

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Utah Paraeducator Honored

Lesley Johnson

Spanish Fork Junior High (Utah) paraeducator Lesley Johnson was recently named the Nebo School District's Secondary Resource Paraeducator of the Year. From the article:

"I feel like I can't do my job without her," said Spanish Fork Junior High teacher Katrina Davenport. "She's so dedicated and devoted to helping people." Johnson said she's had students refer to her as "Mom." She said they've called out, "Hi Mom!" in the hallways.

Paraeducator and others honored

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Announcement on the 2010 Conference

First, the bad news...

During the past several months we have heard from many individuals who have attended previous conferences and found that many states, districts, and national organizations are experiencing travel freezes and budget restrictions. Based on this and the current economic downturn, we have opted not to hold a 2010 conference. We want to thank everyone for their interest and support.

Now, the good news...

We are currently in the process of finalizing the dates and location of the 2011 Conference! We anticipate the Call for Papers being posted early in 2010. Stay tuned for more information.

PS

Although we are not holding the National conference in 2010, a number of states are still holding their state conferences. We are working on creating a calendar that will list all of these. If you know of a paraprofessional conference or training opportunity in your state then please let us know!

The Paraeducator Dilemna- on Making a Living Wage

One of the most popular posts on our site is a discussion started by a para from Sioux City, Iowa asking what paraeducators make in different states. The 100 replies to that question show that there is a lot of interest in that area. If you enjoyed that discussion you will likely also appreciate a recent article titled The Paraeducator Dilemma about paraeducators in Yakima, Washington fighting for a living wage.

The entire article provides a great overview of the work that paraeducators do and some of the struggles that they face. Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite:

From Heidi Mann:

"At MLK, the teachers treat us like equals," Mann says. "We're not saying we are equal to them. But I'd say we're at least worth half of what they make."

One of the most popular posts on our site is a discussion started by a para from Sioux City, Iowa asking what paraeducators make in different states. The 100 replies to that question show that there is a lot of interest in that area. If you enjoyed that discussion you will likely also appreciate a recent article titled The Paraeducator Dilemma about paraeducators in Yakima, Washington fighting for a living wage.

The entire article provides a great overview of the work that paraeducators do and some of the struggles that they face. Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite:

From Heidi Mann:

"At MLK, the teachers treat us like equals," Mann says. "We're not saying we are equal to them. But I'd say we're at least worth half of what they make."

On working for a living wage:

While they're taking care of other people's children on the playground and in the school cafeteria, many paraeducators struggle to provide for their own children. Many of their children qualify to receive free or reduced lunch in the district for which they work.

"As far as we understand, we are the lowest-paid unit in the district, and we are the ones who are teaching in the classrooms," (Buffy) Phillips says. "We're not asking to be paid like the teachers are paid. We just need enough to live on."

On the work that paras do:

Paraeducators supervise children on the playground, in the lunchroom and classroom, and before and after school. They tutor students in math. They help children learn to read. They lead small groups. And while they don't craft lesson plans, paraeducators do help teach the lessons.

"I just really could not do my job without them," says Joan Kirk, a special education teacher at Gilbert Elementary School. "We're a team."

Does anything in the article sound familiar to you?

The Paraeducator Dilemma from the Yakima Herald

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