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  • Mrs G

What is a Paraprofessional?

Updated: Mar 2, 2023

Paraprofessionals are the unsung heroes. Of all the jobs in Special Education, Paraprofessionals get my vote for having the greatest ability to impact the daily lives of students. Paraprofessionals are sometimes called Paraeducators, Education Assistants, Special Education Instructional Assistants, or Teacher Aides.

By any name, Paraprofessionals keep the classroom running and deserve to be celebrated! So, what is a Paraprofessional? What is a Paraeducator? What is a Special Education Paraprofessional? Simply put, these people are the heart of the classroom.

What do Paraprofessionals do?

Paraprofessionals are the heart of any classroom. They support the classroom Teacher. When Teachers are drowning in data and phone calls from parents, it is the Paraprofessional who greets the students. When a Teacher is managing a behavior crisis or testing students it is the Paraprofessional who is re-teaching a concept to a small group of students. Paraprofessionals are famous for organizing classrooms, completing student observations, and preparing student materials.

The relationships between the Paraprofessional, Classroom Teacher, and students can change the dynamic of a classroom.

My Special Education Paraprofessionals

I have a huge place in my heart for the amazing Paraprofessionals that I have worked with in my Special Education classroom over the years. There was the one who brought in an illuminated, five-foot tree with lights to make our room cozier. We read with students under that tree and wondered how long until the Fire Marshall shut us down.

Another favorite created a classroom currency (horrifyingly with my face on it) while I was out sick for the day. She opened a store and encouraged our students to bring a friend from their general education classrooms to “shop”.

We created a talent show to showcase our students and cried when they performed in front of their peers to standing ovations. We opened our daily check-ins to any student who needed it, not just our students in Special Education. This made our Special Education room the coolest place to hang out.

The Cool Kids

Our Special Education room was so open, warm, and inviting that general education students would stop me in the halls to ask, “when will you take me?” and “why is it only some kids that get a turn to go with you?” Our students including many who had numerous things stacked against them socially were accepted, popular even. We were officially the cool kids in room 309. This made our students’ daily lives better. It should not be the case, but it simply was.

I am so incredibly proud of our program and I take absolutely zero credit for it. None of it was me. It was my Paraprofessionals. Their creativity, thoughtfulness, and ingenuity built our program.

My Paraprofessionals met the needs of students when they were overwhelmed by the chaos of general education. They modified work, taught life skills, and offered breaks at exactly the right moments. They took data, gave advice, and solved so many problems while I sat writing IEPs.

Thank You, Paraprofessionals

Paraprofessionals see our students for exactly who they are. They love our students and hold their hands through the tough stuff. But, Paraprofessionals hold our hands too as Teachers. They help, support, document, prepare, and laugh just at the right times. Next time you see a Paraprofessional, thank them for all they do, seen and unseen.

Resources for working with your Paraprofessionals



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