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What does a Paraprofessional Teacher do?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A paraprofessional teacher provides assistance and support for a teacher both inside and outside the classroom. These teaching professionals, also known as teachers' aides, perform a wide variety of tasks depending on the setting and the relationship they have with the teachers they assist. Education requirements for a position as a paraprofessional teacher vary depending on regional regulations. In some cases, they may need to have teaching certifications of their own, while in others, an associate's degree in education or a similar field may be sufficient.

In the classroom, a paraprofessional teacher can help with discipline, provide one-on-one services to struggling students, pass out and collect classroom materials, and supervise students who need additional assistance. This can include disabled students who may need personal aides, as well as students who are having trouble with assignments or students with known discipline problems. The paraprofessional teacher may also run audiovisual equipment for the teacher.

When classes are not in session, paraprofessional teachers can be involved with lesson and materials preparation, including copying class materials, helping arrange field trips, and other activities. They can collect and grade homework and other course materials, meet with the teacher and other aides who may work in the classroom to discuss curricula and students of special concern, and can also be involved in other administrative and support tasks, like helping teachers apply for grants.

Paraprofessional teachers accompany classes on field trips and can be involved in activities like designing individualized education plans (IEPs) for disabled students who need particular care in the classroom. This may involve working with parents to discuss student needs along with discussing disability issues with a school's disability services coordinator and other staff members. In some cases, a paraprofessional teacher is retained as an aide who works directly with one student, in which case a classroom may have several aides present at any given time to meet the needs of the whole class.

Like fully credentialed teachers, these education professionals must be comfortable working with children in a broad range of environments. Many colleges offer training programs for people interested in positions in the educational field, including certification programs for paraprofessional teachers. It is advisable to check the contents of a program against the requirements for practice in the classroom to ensure that the training offered by the program will meet these requirements. People may also want to consider taking additional classes in topics like disability services and first aid so they can be more flexible and useful in the classroom.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Practical Adult Insights researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon925978 — On Jan 15, 2014

My best friend is autistic and I wouldn't trade him for anything. He makes my day so much better - he is the reason why I want to do this - to help people understand and just help them in general.

By anon325326 — On Mar 15, 2013

It's really a shame. I substitute for paraprofessionals in my district and I had gotten wind that they were cutting all of them, unless really necessary. Parapros really do a lot of the children. People don't take our job seriously, yet, there are so many children with special needs and they are not getting the help they need because of money issues.

What bothers me is that a brand new school that cost 3.7 million dollars was built, but the children have old worn text books. We live in one backward society.

By dfoster85 — On Sep 04, 2011

Unfortunately, paraprofessionals are being cut left and right because of budget constraints - even in counties with rising revenues. It's very short-sighted, because of course it means less learning for kids one way or another. Without the support of the paraprofessional, the teacher is simply spread thinner. Elementary teachers in particular have little planning time, students who are learning at different levels, a lot of paperwork to fill out, etc.

It's a shame when paraprofessionals are laid off because most of them are hard-working and already underpaid.

By Bhutan — On Sep 03, 2011

@Subway11 - The teacher certification requirements for elementary education here in Texas involve taking thirty credit hours in elementary education courses and an additional sixteen credits in general teacher preparation courses along with passing the certification exam if you already have Bachelors in another degree.

A lot of states have an alternative teacher certification program that allows people with a degree to get into the teaching field much faster than a traditional student. I read that a lot of people go into to teaching as a second career after leaving a different field because they want to really make a difference and are tired of the corporate rat race.

I know that if you specialize in certain shortage areas like special education and become a special education teacher there ware loan forgiveness programs and additional incentive pay if you stay on with the school system for at least three years.

My sister did this and she is glad that she did. She loves her job and doesn't have the burden of student loans to deal with.

By subway11 — On Sep 03, 2011

@BrickBack - Teaching is a rewarding profession, but not everyone is cut out for this career. I looked into the requirements in Florida, and a paraprofessional has to have an Associate’s degree along with a teacher certificate. Also, most paraprofessionals work with the lower grades, so you really have to like little kids.

In my children’s school the paraprofessionals only support the prekindergarten, and kindergarten classes. Once the kids hit first grade there are no paraprofessionals. Maybe the public schools are different, but in my kid’s school that is how it is.

I would have liked to have worked in a third or fourth grade class. I think that it would be much easier to manage children at this age than when they are younger which is why I passed on the opportunity.

Instead I am considering going through the teacher certification program and just becoming a teacher for this grade level. I don’t think I would want to teach younger children.

By BrickBack — On Sep 03, 2011

I had a friend who worked as a paraprofessional before she became a teacher. She wanted to see firsthand what working in a classroom was really like and also thought that if she pursued her Bachelors in elementary education she would have practical experience when it came time to getting a job when she graduated.

She wanted to go this route because she has heard from many of her friends that went into teaching that they were a little disillusioned with the job and she did not want to make the same mistake. She was really was glad that she did this because she was able to get placed in the very school that she worked in as a paraprofessional. So finding a job was not a problem for her.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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