Paraeducator— Teaching Assistant at Educational Institution

A paraprofessional educator or paraeducator can play an important role at an educational institution. The official definition of a paraeducator’s job is to assist teachers but responsibilities often extend further. Paraeducators must wear many hats and take on numerous responsibilities on a daily basis. The article discusses definition, qualification, and Responsibilities of paraeducator. It also discusses how one can be a better paraeducator or paraprofessional educator.

What is a paraeducator?

Meaning of paraeducator according to dictionaries

According to Collins dictionary, a paraeducator means a school employee who works under the supervision of teachers or other professional practitioners.

According to Cambridge Dictionary, “a paraprofessional “paraeducator” means a person who has some training in a job such as teaching or law but does not have all the qualifications to be a teacher, lawyer, etc.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a paraprofessional means someone who has some experience in and training for a particular profession but is not yet qualified.

Definition of paraeducator

A paraeducator is a school employee who works alongside or under the supervision of teachers or other qualified professionals. A paraeducator works directly with students under the supervision of a teacher (teacher, lecturer, or professor).

A Paraeducator is defined as an educational institution employee who works under the supervision of teachers or other professional practitioners.

Other titles of a paraeducator

Paraeducators are often designated by their employers by some common titles. The title of a paraeducator can be

  • Paraprofessional educator
  • Paraprofessional
  • Para pro
  • Teacher Aide
  • Teacher Assistant
  • Teaching Assistant
  • Learning Assistant
  • Educational Assistant
  • Educational Technician
  • Instructional Assistant
  • Alternative School Work Study Assistant
  • Bilingual/Bicultural School Home Assistant
  • Career Educational Assistants
  • Communication Aide, etc.
A paraeducator works directly with students under the supervision of a teacher (teacher, lecturer, or professor).

Responsibilities: What do paraeducators do?

Paraeducators work at schools, colleges, or universities to support and assist with providing instructional and non-instructional services to students. Although paraeducators’ jobs are primarily instructional, they also provide direct services to students and their families.

Mainly, a paraeducator assists a teacher in teaching students and carrying out daily tasks and activities in accordance with the school curriculum.

The responsibilities of a paraeducator may include collecting student data and charting the frequency of student behaviors, which the teacher then uses to make educational decisions (French, 1999). Paraeducators may also suggest or carry out lesson plans, and modify instructional materials based on directions provided by the general or special education teacher.

Actually, paraeducators have to fulfill a variety of student-specific needs; therefore, the first and most important responsibilities are almost always related to supporting students with disabilities.

Paraeducators provide instructional support which includes

  1. one-on-one tutoring
  2. assistance with classroom management
  3. provide instructional assistance in a computer laboratory
  4. conduct parental involvement activities
  5. provide instructional support in a library or media center
  6. act as a translator, and 
  7. provide instructional support services 

Paraeducators do the mentioned duty under the direction and supervision of a highly qualified teacher or professional practitioner.

According to Doyle (1997), the responsibilities of a paraeducator can be two types—

  • Instructional
  • Non-Instructional
Instructional ResponsibilitiesNon-Instructional Responsibilities
Observe, record, and chart students’ behavioral responses to teacher demonstration/direction.Perform clerical and organizational tasks (e.g., attendance records, and lunch count).
Assist with individualized instruction.Monitor students in the hallway, on the playground, and at the bus stop.
Tutor individuals or small groups of students.Assist with supervision during meals and snacks.
Implement and reinforce teacher-developed instruction.Operate audiovisual equipment in the classroom.
Contribute ideas and suggestions related to general instruction.Provide specific personal care for students (e.g., restroom use, repositioning).
Paraeducators need to come up with creative solutions on the spot whenever traditional methods fail; it often happens in Inclusive Education or Special Education.
Paraeducators need to come up with creative solutions on the spot whenever traditional methods fail; it often happens in Inclusive Education or Special Education.

How to be a paraeducator?

Qualification of a paraeducator

If you look at a circular for appointing paraeducators, you may find a list of a lot of qualifications and abilities. But there are some common qualifications one must have if one wants to be a paraeducator. The qualifications for a paraeducator are the following—

  • Must have completed a certain academic level (it is graduation most of the time).
  • Must have better and effective communication skills both orally, and in writing.
  • Must have knowledge and application of the elements of effective instruction to assist teaching and learning.
  • Must have the ability to motivate students. 
  • Must have the ability to assist in identifying specific triggers that lead to the emergence or escalation of student behavior.
  • Must have effective skills in using computer programs, especially in word processing, and presentation programs.
  • Teaching skills can play a vital role to give priority to the final appointment. 

How to be a better paraeducator?

The qualifications mentioned above are all that can make a good paraeducator but if  one wants to be a better paraeducator then one must follow some techniques. The techniques are—

  1. Being knowledgeable
  2. Being a creative employee
  3. Knowing one’s limit as a paraeducator
  4. Being organized
  5. Rapid communication skills
  6. Believing in the students
  7. Allowing students some independence
  8. Avoiding discrimination
  9. Focusing integrity
  10. Showing respect
  11. Keeping confidential information private
  12. Documenting everything
  13. Being calm and positive

Being knowledgeable

Paraeducators can bring more knowledge in different school subjects. If one wants to be a good paraeducator, one must have to be knowledgeable first as the work is related to students’ learning. So there is no alternative to being knowledgeable in respective subjects for a paraeducator.

Being creative

A paraeducator must have the ability to think outside the box, and that is the only way to work productively with the students at institutions.  Paraeducators need to come up with creative solutions on the spot whenever traditional methods fail; it often happens in Inclusive Education or Special Education.

Knowing the limit as a paraeducator

Although paraeducators may be given a lot of responsibility, they do not have the authority to make major decisions. Paraeducators must know the boundaries of their position and follow the chain of command will help make their job a lot less stressful.

Being organized

Everyone is distracted from the tasks at hand when the environment is chaotic. When it comes to record-keeping and classroom behavior, paraeducators should be well-organized. This includes keeping track of assignments and bathroom breaks, having the right class materials at the right time, and much more. A paraeducator must remember to document everything and keep confidential information private.

Rapid communication skills

One of the best skills for everybody is communication skills. Timely communication can solve most problems. If a paraeducator has a concern or an issue, they should not bottle it up inside them or try to handle it themselves. They must talk to the teachers they assist with about their concerns or any issues they may have. Students can sense negative feelings anytime but if a paraeducator does not address the issue with the respective authority, it can affect his/her ability to help the students and may also damage the students’ attitude toward them.

Believing in the students

As a paraeducator at an educational institution, one may find oneself working with different types of students and he or she has to work with students in inclusive education or especially with students with disabilities. 

The students a paraeducator works with may not have a lot of people who believe in them. Even if it seems like it will take a miracle for a student to be able to accomplish a task, it is a paraeducator’s job to believe in the students and do all they can to help the child experience success. When children realize their paraeducator believes in them, they are more willing to work for the professional.

Allowing students some Independence

The major duty of paraeducators is to help students. But experts believe that helping students does not mean paraeducators have to do everything for them, para pros have to allow students the opportunity to work independently to help them build confidence in their skills. Experts in teaching learning suggest when students solve a problem incorrectly or ask a question, paraprofessionals should provide clues instead of providing the correct answer. Paraeducators should ask questions to help the students arrive at the answer themselves.

Avoiding discrimination

A good paraeducator does not discriminate against students for any reason. Paraeducators must encounter students of different races, backgrounds, and abilities, and they must treat all of them with dignity and respect. Students can feel whether a paraeducator dislikes them, especially if a para pro treats them differently from other students, this may cause them to act out or refuse to let a paraeducator help them.

Focusing on integrity

In everything you do, focus on integrity. Do not get caught up in gossip among teachers and other school staff. Do not help students cheat or get away with negative behavior. While you must follow instructions and do your job, if the teacher you work with or another staff member asks you to engage in discriminatory or unethical behavior, do not agree to it.

Showing respect

Even if paraeducators do not like the teachers they work with or other school staff, they must respect them and focus on their duty. If a paraeducator does not respect the others where he or she works, students may not respect them either. This definitely can lead to problems with classroom management, discipline, and the overall school environment.

Keeping confidential information private

During working with students, paraeducators often discuss confidential information in meetings or have access to confidential documents. The para pros must remember that the information discussed in the classroom needs to be kept confidential. A paraeducator only can discuss information such as grades, health problems, and personal information about a student with that students’ parents; other information must not be shared with the parents, guardians, or others. But in some cases, paraeducators can consult with the teacher they work under.

Documenting everything

As a paraeducator, one has to work with students one-on-one. Paraeducators can support student learning by documenting the activities they do with a student and keeping notes about students’ progress. If a conflict arises with a student, paraeducators should make sure to document the conflict and report it to a teacher or administrator.

Being calm and positive

The best paraprofessionals remain calm and patient both in crisis and in routine. Remain patient and understanding when having to work at the pace of the student they are helping. Paraprofessionals need to be flexible and ready to shift gears when a crisis arises; they should recognize the opportunities and try new things.

The best paraprofessionals remain calm and patient both in crisis and in routine.
The best paraprofessionals remain calm and patient both in crisis and in routine.


  1. A Parapro. A Beginner’s Guide for Paraeducators.
  2. Doyle, M. (1997). The paraprofessional’s guide to the inclusive classroom: Working as a team. Baltimore: Brookes Publishing.
  3. French, N. K. (1999). Paraeducators and teachers: Shifting roles. Teaching Exceptional Children, 32(2), 59-73.
  4. Indeed. What does a Para Educator do?.
  5. William and Mary. (2015). Paraeducators’ Tools for Supporting the Instructional Process Considerations Packet.
  6. Zeiger, S. (n/a). 10 Tips for Para-Educators. CHRON.

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