Paraeducators are professionals who work alongside teachers, providing valuable teaching assistance or classroom assistance, usually in grades K-12 of public or private schools. These professionals, also known as instructional assistants or teacher's aides, fulfill a variety of services for teachers. Several duties paraeducators may fill, depending on the needs of their specific teachers and classrooms, include teaching assistance and classroom management; one-on-one tutoring; instructional assistance or support during various activities, including labs, library visits, and field trips; and filling a leadership role in conducting parental involvement meetings or activities. A paraeducator is typically considered a school employee, even though he or she must work under the supervision of a teacher or other professional practitioner, such as a speech or occupational therapist.
Caring professionals who choose to serve as paraeducators are a highly valued commodity in the academic world. Teachers and students in nearly any educational setting can benefit from the skills and help offered by these trained teaching assistants. While filling supportive roles in general education classrooms, paraeducators may perform such tasks as delivering lessons, providing individualized tutoring, grading homework and tests, participating in classroom activities, and generally providing an additional authoritative adult presence while observing students in classrooms.
Paraeducators may also work in special education settings. They may serve in classrooms for students with various developmental or learning disabilities, or other special needs. Other settings may include resource rooms where teacher's aides assist students with learning disabilities, or in community programs as job coaches for students with developmental disabilities.
Individuals interested in serving as paraeducators must hold, at minimum, a high school diploma or its equivalent. Many school districts prefer two-year college degrees, plus passage of teaching assistance or proficiency tests. Most paraeducators learn their jobs through hands-on training. Depending on whether the teacher's aide works in a general classroom or special education setting, additional training may be available or required, such as mentoring, literacy strategies, behavior management training, and specific special needs courses addressing such learning and developmental disabilities as ADHD and autism spectrum disorders. In addition, special education teaching assistants may need to pass other training exams or acquire certification specific to their school district’s requirements.
People who value education, and desire to share their passion for learning, often make excellent paraeducators. In addition to providing assistance to busy teachers and interacting with students, professionals who choose to be teacher's aides likewise gain valuable teaching and classroom management experience. This accumulated experience may serve as a catalyst for them to pursue additional education and credentials to become teachers themselves.