Column: Paraprofessionals offer support for District 518 students

“They get to know the students and their personalities and are able to advocate for the students when the student might not be able to advocate for themselves."

File photo of education by Adam Winger on Unsplash.
File photo of education by Adam Winger on Unsplash.
Adam Winger / Unsplash
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Paraprofessionals (paras) provide additional supports to students throughout District 518 in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to the areas of: academics, social emotional needs, behavioral needs and executive functioning skills.

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Paras work under the supervision of a teacher and can re-teach, review and practice previously learned or mastered skills across school settings.

Those that work in special education support students who qualify for special education and assist in implementing accommodations and modifications, behavior programming and reinforcement, how to successfully engage in social situations, as well as supporting small groups of students.

Through concentrated efforts, organization and intentional communication, the paras in District 518 are able to establish a safe and supportive learning environment for the students they serve.

Jessica DeKam, special education teacher at Worthington Middle School, shares that her paras work directly with the students every day.


“They get to know the students and their personalities and are able to advocate for the students when the student might not be able to advocate for themselves,” she said.

Each paraprofessional brings a unique skill set and personality to the learning environment that allows them to build rapport with the students they serve.

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Jessica went on to say that “all of the students in the classroom benefit from them being there. I would not be able to do what I do without each and every one of them!”

Monthly, paras serving students in each of the district buildings participate in training to further their knowledge and skills as per current research and best practices. Many of our paraprofessionals have participated in ongoing training efforts to support various curriculum offerings and carry out research-based strategies. Topics may range from general professional expectations to more job-specific content such as assisting students with their communication, de-escalation strategies for students in crisis and how to support students to further their independence.

These trainings are offered and designed to assist in providing individualized support to meet the needs of each learner.

Erin Ahrens, special education teacher at Prairie Elementary shared that she could not do (her) job without the paraprofessionals. They are (her) eyes, ears and hands throughout the school environment. It truly takes a team to execute individualized programming for our students and (she) is so thankful for (her) team.

If you or someone you may know is seeking employment and enjoys supporting students as they learn and grow within our community, District 518 has all paraprofessional positions listed on the district website,, under “Employment Opportunities.”

McKenzie Helgeson, assistant director of special education, Southwest West Central Service Cooperative, serving District 518

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