When we think of the people responsible for educating our children, we typically think of teachers. But there is another unsung hero in America’s classrooms whose job is just as important as a teacher’s — the paraprofessional. Like those who lead the classroom, paraprofessionals require a substitute in their absence.
Paraprofessionals, also known as paras, para-pros or para-educators assist students with disabilities, English as a Second Language students and at-risk students. Morgan Hunter substitute paraprofessional Steve Ricke says a typical day for him begins with a meeting, preparing for the day alongside the teacher in charge of the special education group. Ricke has been working as a substitute since 2017, but more recently he has shifted his focus to filling in as a substitute paraprofessional in the Eudora preschool and elementary classrooms. His day revolves around supporting four or five different students in the classroom or during recess, lunch or specials—like gym and art class.
A Paraprofessional’s Immeasurable value
Students with disabilities, or those who need additional instruction, require extra attention in order to help them understand the lesson. Paraprofessionals help teachers save valuable class time by working with these students and helping them keep pace with their peers. Without the added help, these students could fall behind.
It’s important for a disabled child’s development to be among their peers. Paraprofessionals allow these students to join the classroom rather than relegating them to special education classes. Paras act as a bridge between these two learning environments, helping the students learn valuable social skills. The day-to-day achievements can be just as meaningful for them as they are for students.
“It’s very gratifying when I see the ‘light bulb’ go on in a student I’m working with when he or she grasps a new concept or starts smiling when they complete an assignment,” Ricke said.
Many times, a para’s duties go beyond classroom work. Some also help with disabled students’ physical needs, like feeding, cleaning or even gross motor skill development for those who need it. They also help deal with any behavioral problems the students might have.
Growing need for paraprofessionals
Working as a paraprofessional can be an extremely rewarding career, but paras are currently in short supply. Paraprofessionals in many districts are currently stretched too thin, forcing them to spend less time with each individual student.
“In the special education group I primarily sub in, there have been occasions when one or two paras were absent and there was not a sub for them,” Ricke said.
Ultimately, it’s the students who suffer. The pandemic left school districts begging for substitute teachers to fill urgent, and often unexpected vacancies throughout the school year. A recent study found 35% of districts surveyed were struggling to fill paraprofessional positions. States like Missouri and Kansas worked to draw in the additional helping hands to address the on-going teacher shortage.
We are actively seeking substitute teaching professionals throughout the Kansas City Metro area and the surrounding counties in Kansas and Missouri. In addition to substitute teacher jobs, we also offer substitute opportunities for teacher’s aides, special education professionals, and paraprofessionals. MHED paraprofessionals work as needed when the regular para is unable to work. If you have a high school diploma and love helping and working with children, apply today!