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: Victoria Arabanos
School: Plymouth Middle School in Plymouth
Why did you become a para for the Robbinsdale School District?
Arabanos: "I've been a para for 10 years and was in the sales and marketing world for a number of years. When I had my daughter I was home with her for five yeras and wanted to stay within her school schedule so I decided to find a job with district. There was an opening at Plymouth Middle School for an in-school suspension supervisor, which was initially part-time, but after going to Sandburg before it closed, it became full time here."
What do you do as a para?
Arabanos: "I direct supervision and tutoring of individual learners in a supervised in-school suspension, which is where students are allowed to stay at school to continue education and get help with assignments while dealing with some behavioral issues. When we can we prefer to keep kids in school who have minor suspensions."
What are some misconceptions people have about paraprofessionals?
Arabanos: "I don’t think people on the outside understand we’re a direct extentsion of what teachers are doing, often in the classroom, helping on an individual type of basis. Through programs with special education, out-of-classroom help, direct involvement with education and studies we are like teachers in many ways. We are often getting and using the same materials and go to great lengths to understand the curriculum in or outside the classroom. But because we don’t have a certified degree in teaching people think we aren't educated. We come from all walks of life, understand what’s important and what's needed for those we assist."
What are the biggest challenges of your job?
Arabanos: "Today we are dealing more with students who come from troubled homes and academically aren’t where they need to be in middle school. When students come to us we sometimes don't fully understand their deficits. We take the extra time to help children understand concepts if that means revising an assignment so they can understand better or working with them one-on-one."
Why are paraprofessionals important and needed in education?
Arabanos: "We’re the direct extension of teachers and today's classrooms sizes are larger so we need that extra person with ears, eyes and education to make sure all students get what they need. With 25 to 30 students per classroom we're doing them a disservice. There are teachers on carts now with not enough classroom space. I don’t think teachers could do what they need to do in the size classrooms there are without paras in there to help out students that need it. We are invaluable to a classroom teacher. We’re not volunteers and we're not just helping with behavior issues. We are a diverse group of educators with many ways to help."