Paraprofessionals, also known as educational assistants, make up a large part of today's public school education support staff. Patch is recognizing their efforts and all they do by spotlighting participating paraprofessionals from local school districts.
Name: Christy Arnoldy
School: Plymouth Middle School in Plymouth
Why did you become a para for the Robbinsdale School District?
Arnoldy: "This is my seventh year working full-time as a para. Before this I was a human resources manager for 16 years at a publishing company, but it closed and for a year after I reassessed what I wanted to do. I live in New Hope and wanted to be a special education para. At the time I had two kids in the school system already and saw an ad to work at Plymouth Middle School. I liked have the same type of schedule as my kids too, but most of all I just love working with children. I subbed for a while before I went full-time and cried when I had to leave so I knew what I was going to do."
What do you do as a para?
Arnoldy: "I spend half my day in the classroom with students assisting them and helping teachers with anything, but mostly with the kids. The second half of my day is in the resource room where I can have up to six kids who have an assignment and need academic support. I really like the variety. I deal with students from a range of backgrounds and skills and the entire special education spectrum from autism to learning disabilities to behavioral and emotional disabilities."
What are some misconceptions people have about paraprofessionals?
Arnoldy: "it’s not an easy job and a lot of people think I'm working with kids who just have physical disabilities, but we all work in different settings and have different training and professional education requirements. Many students I work with are on the honor roll, but have other issues and challenges. The best thing is I am thanked everyday here by teachers, sometimes several times a day. If I had a choice we'd have an Educational Assistant in every class, but that's not a reality right now."
What are the biggest challenges of your job?
Arnoldy: "It's the unpredicatability of your day, which I enjoy, but also find challenging. You're dealing with human beings and you don’t know how they're going to be from day to day. One day could be great and the next they're off. The emotional part comes from knowing students don’t all come from a wonderful background, but some are troubled and dealing with a lot. There is a really good support system in place though and a lot of going outside the box."
Why are paraprofessionals important and needed in education?
Arnoldy: "For all reasons mentioned, kids have come to rely on us and they can see trust and know when a relationship has been built. With paras, they have another reources besides teachers and administrators. There are so many kids with many different needs."