- A Texas district is using state grant funds to help paraprofessionals earn bachelor’s degrees and ultimately become certified teachers, according to KFDA.
- By providing the paraprofessionals with financial assistance through the state’s Grow Your Own program, the Amarillo Independent School District can diversify its workforce and employ more educators who reflect the cultural makeup of the student population.
- District leaders say they also want to provide mentorship and coaching programs to the prospective teachers as they work toward their degrees while also continuing their full-time jobs.
School staff members in support roles sometimes have stronger relationships with students than teachers. That’s one reason why assisting these employees with earning their degrees and teaching credentials can benefit those individuals as well as students.
In recent years, paraprofessionals have been viewed as critical to students’ learning for several reasons. Because these assistants often come from the communities in which they work, giving them pathways to become teachers can help diversify the teaching workforce. Meeting the need for bilingual teachers in schools with English learners and dual language programs is another reason. Because many paraprofessionals already work with special education students, these staff members are also being recruited to fill positions for special education teachers.
As they move toward lead teaching positions, however, some paraprofessionals face more challenges than those taking a traditional route into the profession. They might not feel respect from colleagues in their schools, and they might also be juggling school and family responsibilities. If school leaders understand some of these challenges in advance, they can better support paraprofessionals who want to become teachers.