When I entered the profession I worked with a non-verbal student and needed a lot of help in understanding my role as a paraprofessional. The good news was I had a lot of support.
I worked in the classroom with our union president, at the time, and she gave me a lot of tips on how to work with students and teachers. Another para, who worked one on one with a student like mine—nonverbal—helped me professionally too. He was also heavily involved in the union and invited me to my first meeting.
I saw how we had a voice and had opportunities to improve our profession, not just for ourselves, but for our students.
When I started working in my district, it took 26 years to get to the top of the pay scale. My local and state unions were successful in collapsing the pay scale. Every paraprofessional saw an increase in pay, and those who were new in the district, like me, ended up at the top of the pay scale.
When I first started, paras were pretty much cleaning the classrooms during teacher professional development days. We weren’t getting any professional training ourselves.
A group of us got together and developed a list of training we wanted and took it to the district. Together with the district, we created a whole suite of training for paraprofessionals.
Now, we’re getting the support we need to assist our students.
The work I've done with the union has really given me the skills and the confidence to push for what’s best for ESPs. I always try to encourage people to get involved because it's not just about making change for yourself and your students. It's also about ensuring you're a part of the education community.