Becoming a Paraprofessional: Everything You Need to Know

You can become a paraprofessional and be a valuable school staff member. You’ll play a vital role in helping school staff and administrators!

Paraprofessionals can typically be found in classrooms, on the playground, or in the cafeteria, helping students, teachers, and staff get through the day.

Paraprofessionals are the unsung heroes of school and help make each classroom a more inclusive environment for all students.

Table of contents:

1) What is a paraprofessional?

  • Special education
  • Language support
  • Behavior support
  • Physical assistant
  • And so many more!

2) How do I become a paraprofessional?

  • General requirements
  • Becoming a substitute teacher

3) Why become a paraprofessional?

  • Form close connections
  • See if teaching is right for you
  • One step closer to teaching

4) Start impacting lives today

So, what is a paraprofessional?

Paraprofessionals help with teaching related tasks

Paraprofessionals are sometimes called instructional aides, paraeducators, teacher’s aides, or paraprofessional teachers.

The paraprofessional’s role consists of numerous responsibilities, depending on the area they are working in. They work with students in small groups, provide one on one assistance, reinforce learning goals, and help lesson plans run smoothly.

The ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act), previously known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), is the primary education law for all United States public schools.

Paraprofessional: An individual who is employed in a… school under the supervision of a certified or licensed teacher

The Every Student Succeeds Act

“Paraprofessional” can mean many things, so think of the ESSA’s definition as an umbrella term for a variety of jobs.

Paraprofessionals are not responsible for lesson planning or teaching entire classes of students as they have different responsibilities. However, they are essential to creating the best learning environment for all students, though many parents may not notice it.

Here are a few different types of paraprofessionals that you might find at school:

1. Special education paraprofessional

In the past, students with special needs were completely removed from the large classroom and placed in a separate room or even school. This practice is largely outdated and now most students with special needs are included in classrooms with other students.

Classes with students with special needs often have special education paraprofessionals assigned to them. The paraprofessional’s presence helps support the classroom teacher. This support can be working in small groups with students, ensuring a student receives extra attention, or acting as a teaching assistant around the classroom.

2. Language support paraprofessional

Bilingual paraprofessionals provide language support to students who are learning English. These paraprofessionals explain the lesson in a student’s native language to help them understand the content.

Language support professionals help translate learning materials to students in small groups and in one-on-one time, depending on the students’ native languages.

These students are known as English Language Learners (ELLs) and because of their language support paraprofessional, they are able to succeed in school as they learn English!

3. Behavioral support paaprofessional

Behavioral support paraprofessionals assist classrooms that have students who struggle with acceptable classroom behavior.

These students often have a behavior intervention plan (BIP) that these paraprofessionals can help implement when they are starting to feel agitated.

BIPs reward good behavior through a written improvement plan – they are not punishments for children whose behavior interferes with learning.

Behavior support paraprofessionals often form strong connections since they work closely with the student they are supporting. Because of this, they can help the student’s teacher understand what the student is trying to communicate through their misbehavior.

4. Physical assistant paraprofessional

Sometimes, when a child needs physical support, they get the help of a paraprofessional. This paraprofessional may assist the student with feeding, using the bathroom, and getting around campus.

Physical assistants might have the background necessary to provide medical support when needed as well. They are trained to identify seizures, allergic reactions, and more. Their presence on campus is essential for the health and safety of everyone!

5. And so many more!

There are just a few examples of the wide range of paraprofessionals and their job descriptions!

Paraprofessionals, regardless of what specific education field they work in, are often the unseen supporters of schools and classrooms. It is because of their unwavering dedication to their students that learning outcomes can be met and students can become successful.

How do I become a paraprofessional?

Paraprofessional assisting students

The process, training, and certification to become a paraprofessional are different from becoming a certified teacher. The requirements also vary depending on the state and school district.

General requirements

Paraprofessionals, under the ESSA, must have a high school diploma, or its equivalent, and meet at least one of the following

  • Finish 2 years of study at a college or technical school
  • Have at least an associate’s degree
  • Be able to prove that you know and can assist in instruction related to reading, writing, and math.
    • You can prove this through a formal state or local academic assessment

Many school districts might also require some form of paraprofessional training. You will have to ask each individual district about this.

Becoming a substitute teacher

If you meet these requirements, then you might be eligible to become a substitute teacher as well! The requirements for substitute teachers and paraprofessionals overlap and working part-time as a paraprofessional and a sub will increase the number of job assignments you receive. 

The substitute requirements vary state to state but working with Scoot Education makes becoming a sub easy! Check out our blogs on how to become a substitute teacher in California, Arizona, and Houston, Texas so you can work as a sub for paraprofessionals.

Sign up to sub with Scoot and you’ll be assigned your own consultant who can answer all the teaching questions you may have.

Why become a paraprofessional?

Help with student learning and work with exceptional children as a paraprofessional

Just like any job in education, paraprofessionals must be incredibly empathetic when working with students. They need to know when a child needs space to be independent and when to step in to provide support.

While this job is not easy, it is extremely rewarding when you see the student you’ve been working with doing better and better in class.

1. Form close connections

If you love working with students, especially ones who need extra one-on-one support, then becoming a paraprofessional is right for you! This is a job where you create close bonds with the students you work with.

Every day spent with these students is a day where you can positively impact their lives for the better!

2. See if this career is right for you

Many paraprofessionals work part-time. If you want to work part-time as well, this is the perfect way you can enter the education field without much commitment.

You’ll be able to supervise students, expand your knowledge of education during professional development workshops and receive instructional support all the while.

Become a substitute with Scoot Education and take the first step into the education field! Scoot makes it easy to work at a variety of schools, all on your own time! 

3. Pathway to a teaching career

If becoming a teacher is your end goal, then becoming a paraprofessional can be a great first step! As a paraprofessional, expand your educator skills while getting the experience you need to handle anything thrown your way.

You’ll learn vital classroom management skills and gain the necessary knowledge and resources to help you and your students thrive each school year.

If you have all the requirements to become a paraprofessional (high school diploma as well as 2 years of college, an associate degree, or a state or local assessment) then you’re on the right track to becoming a teacher!

Additionally, there are many programs, such as TeachStart, that can help you go from paraprofessional to teacher! These programs help prepare you to get your teaching credentials and succeed in the classroom!

TeachStart helps you become a fully credentialed K12 teacher without any costly fees! Join our community of motivated educators today.

Impact lives today

As a paraprofessional, work with students one on one, help classroom teachers and encourage students to grow as they learn.

Do you remember when a teacher or school staff member was especially kind to you? If so, then you know how vital it is for students to have support from the adults around them.

Each student matters when it comes to education. As a paraprofessional, you’ll have the opportunity to ensure that each student, regardless of the support they need, has the resources they need to succeed.

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