You may be asking yourself, what is a paraprofessional? While it may be a simple question, the answer can be a little more complicated.
Para is a prefix that comes from the Greek word meaning “beside, near, issuing from”. Parallel lines continue forever side-by-side. Paralegals and paramedics work closely with lawyers and medical professionals. Likewise, paraprofessionals or paraeducators play a fundamental role in managing the classroom alongside teachers and administrators.
Paraprofessional can be a blanket term to describe several roles including bus aide, teacher’s assistant, library or media assistants, and special education aide. They may work one-on-one with certain students or groups of students. They may assistant full-time teachers with paperwork and classroom decoration. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the “employment of teacher assistants is projected to grow 8 percent from 2016 to 2026” due to increasing student enrollment and the continuing demand for special education services.
If you’re considering a career in this ever-expanding field, here are a few other points to think about while making your decision.
3 Reasons to Become a Paraprofessional:
Most programs only require an Associate’s Degree or a High School diploma.
Though qualifications vary by state and school district, most programs require paraprofessionals to have a minimum of a high school diploma, an associate’s degree, or two years of college credit. Some districts also ask their paraprofessionals to pass a state or local exam in order to qualify. For those looking to pursue a career in education, becoming a paraprofessional while you are still working toward your degree can give you a head start among the competition after you graduate.
The schedule of a paraprofessional allows you to take jobs when you can, meaning that you could potentially have a full class schedule and still work a few days a week in your local school district. The added experience, not to mention the extra income, can put you in an advantageous position when you start looking for full-time teaching or permanent paraprofessional positions.
You often get more one-on-one time with students.
According to the National Education Association, 91 percent of paraprofessionals work directly with students. Paraprofessionals are often brought into classrooms to improve the student-teacher ratio or to devote extra time to the students who need individualized attention. In this role, you often have the chance to get to know your students better than their full-time teacher, and students may also benefit from your personalized teaching strategies.
One paraeducator at Waters Middle School in Delaware, Julie Harrington says, “Although there are some days when I am surprised that I keep my sanity, those days are far outnumbered by the rewards of watching a child smile because they were able to accomplish even the simplest of tasks.” In your time as a paraprofessional, you’re sure to have plenty of first-hand experience in dealing with many different personalities and learning abilities. This valuable background can not only be rewarding in its own right, it can also be extremely useful in your future career.
It’s an excellent introduction if you are considering a career in Special Education.
The NEA also estimates that 75 percent of paraprofessionals work directly with special needs students. A single teacher often cannot meet the diverse needs of his or her classroom, and paraprofessionals provide the instructional and individualized support that many children require. There are many career paths now available for those interested in Special Education. If you are considering entering into this field, becoming a paraprofessional can be an easy way to get your feet wet and find what kind of work is the best fit for you.
If you’re still not convinced, read through a few blog posts that talk about the profession. There’s no doubt that some days can be particularly challenging as with all jobs, but many people, including the authors of the articles below, describe the profession as a profoundly rewarding one. Whatever your reason for becoming a paraprofessional, you can be certain that you will come away from the experience a changed person.
Great Reads for Paraprofessionals
Insight is always looking for paraprofessionals and substitute teachers to work in many of our partner school districts. If you are interested in pursuing a career as a paraeducator, please feel free to reach out to us at (856) 406-6015 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 13th through 19th is Special Education Week in New Jersey. For more information, please visit www.asah.org.