A paraprofessional is known by many other terms, including teacher’s aide and para-pro. Though job descriptions vary greatly by school district, city, region and state, a para-educator’s job is to assist one or more teachers. A para-pro works in a variety of settings, including one-on-one, in small groups, and, less often, in large groups. Under the direct supervision of the teacher, a para-pro helps students understand materials and complete assignments. Administrative and audio-visual tasks may also be performed by a teacher's aide.
Though the para-pro position is technically within the field of education, it is extremely important to note that a paraprofessional is typically not certified to teach. A certified teacher may choose to work as a para-pro, of course. Generally, though regulations vary, a para-educator has an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, but does not have a teaching certificate. For this reason, she may not actually teach a class on her own.
A paraprofessional may be needed in any grade level. Her job duties include assisting the teacher by taking aside and assisting students of varying ages and ability levels. When working with one or more students, a paraprofessional may listen to a student read aloud in order to encourage proper speech, confidence, and learning patterns. A para-pro may also guide a student into understanding a specific assignment. Likewise, a para-educator may work with students to help manage their time, ensuring that their assignments are turned in completely and on time.
A paraprofessional may also be assigned to one or more students known to have behavioral issues. Students with learning disabilities or behavioral issues may see a paraprofessional daily or a few times a week. On the other hand, a paraprofessional may also work with a child just once. In some school districts, one para-pro may work with a student for several years. Para-educators work with teachers, parents, principals, and other school staff to decide when or how a student needs additional assistance.
Paraprofessionals may also supplement their education by taking additional training, continuing education courses, or by becoming certified to teach. It is not uncommon for college students seeking a teaching degree to work as paraprofessionals. A paraprofessional is typically employed or contracted by a school or school district and may not work full-time.
Other duties performed by paraprofessionals include clerical work and supervisory tasks. A para-pro may watch students on recess, during field trips, or at lunch. Additionally, a para-pro may help grade assignments and assist the teacher in carrying out other duties.