Positions in Paraeducation

LPS opens up paraeducator jobs to seniors in the district


Evan Merrell, Broadcast Editor

New to Lincoln high schools as of this semester, LPS is encouraging seniors to apply to be paraeducators to help with special needs students at middle and elementary schools in the district. 

One of the first LSE students to get hired through the program was senior Jacob Wolfe. After hearing about it in the announcements he decided to apply.

Wolfe works at Lefler Middle school and his day consists of helping a number of students in their classes.

“I get there at 12:30, and start by helping a student in his health class, then another student in their social studies class, and finish the day helping everyone get ready to go home,” he said.

Wolfe has already learned many important lessons. For him, he has learned communication is crucial in being an effective paraeducator

 “One thing I know is being able to communicate effectively with the students is vital. A lot of the students are nonverbal so figuring out how to communicate in a way they understand is really important. You have to know what they need or want and sometimes that’s more complicated than it may seem,” Wolfe said. 

Wolfe has had years of practice in assisting children with special needs.

“[A family member] has special needs so I felt like I would be a good fit for the role. I have experience helping people with special needs,” Wolfe said.

Although he does not plan on pursuing a career in special education, he recognizes the importance of special education in society.

“It’s important because obviously everyone is not at the same level in an academic setting, so having support for students who need it is very important in making school a place for everyone to learn,” Wolfe said. Although Wolfe might have been one of the first to be hired, his peers are not far behind.

Senior Kiarra Fennell also applied to become a paraeducator. While she has yet to be hired, her ambition for helping special needs students is unmatched. 

“I first heard of the opportunity while I was at a concession stand thing for track, one of the HR ladies was talking about the position,” Fennell said.

From the get-go, the prospect of working with students with special needs piqued her interest. Fennell is in a similar position to Wolfe in that she has several family members with  special needs in some shape or form. 

“[Some family members] have been diagnosed with ADHD and [one of them] had a speech impediment until the third grade, so as he was growing up I was helping him with his homework and communicating with his teachers,” she said. Fennell has been assisting [her family member] since she was 13-years-old. Since then, [this family member] has blossomed into a smart young kid who can effectively communicate with his peers and instructors. The role Fennell played in his success was vital and speaks to the impact a little assistance can have on a child’s development and confidence. 

Although Fennell has yet to be hired for the program, she is interested in elementary education as a career path in the future. It might be just by coincidence but this is exactly what the program is looking to achieve. 

In a 2023 interview with the Journal Star, Jenny Fundus, Director of Special Education at the District, speaks on the motive behind the creation of the program: “We need more paraeducators and we need to recruit future employees of the school district, that’s why we went down this road.”

This whole plan is in response to a nationwide shortage of teachers, and more specifically, paraeducators. The effects of Covid-19 are very apparent in schools across the nation with more empty teaching positions and larger class sizes for the teachers who stayed. 

According to that same article, there are currently 35 open paraeducator positions in LPS. So, as is apparent, LPS needs all the help it can get. Only 11 positions will be given out in this first semester but LPS hopes to take in more next year if everything goes to plan. 

Building the next generation of paraeducators is not something done overnight but making an effort is vital for the equity of education. Fennell sums up the sentiment perfectly saying, “Everyone deserves a good education, a fair education, but some people learn differently so they need help but that doesn’t make them any different from you and me.”