The Many Roles of a Para During a Pandemic

With schools closed across the state, there are students from all backgrounds who are struggling to continue their education. All students are having to adjust to this new environment, but it hits a little harder for some. Paraeducators support the students who need that extra bit of assistance to learn, but with everyone staying home, many students are relying on their parents to help them get their homework done. But what happens to the students who are learning a new language and whose parents are doing the same? It makes it much more difficult to do your homework when you don’t understand the assignment. This is where our ELL (English Language Learner) paraeducators can help. Even though they are unable to work face-to-face with these students, they are continuing to do everything they can to support them virtually. One of these para heroes is Jose Atil.

“I work at Evergreen High School as an ELL joseatilmcParaeduactor. I am also a Para Trustee for the PSE Evergreen chapter,” Jose starts. “Throughout the school closure, I have been in contact with my students over Google Meets to help support them in their classes. A lot of them are just emerging English speakers, so I work to help them understand their weekly homework assignments and what it is they are supposed to do. This includes anything from Algebra to English, and even Science and History.”

Jose explains that, right now, the main focus for ELL paras is making sure the current seniors get to graduation. They need to complete their final assignments and projects to graduate, and Jose helps them do so.

English language learners aren’t the only students who are struggling to adapt to this new environment. There are many students whose parents are working on the front lines during this pandemic and can’t stay home to care for and support them. That’s why Evergreen School District started Camp Evergreen and asked those Education Support Professionals (ESPs) who are able to step up and care for these children while their parents save lives. And of course, Jose Atil volunteered to help.

“All of the kids are separated into groups and different classrooms,” he explains. “Depending on the shift, I’m either working directly with students in a classroom, or as a floater, helping where needed. We also help to escort students from the drop off area to their classroom, and some of us are helping to serve and deliver meals.”

It takes many hands and many roles to run Camp Evergreen and support these little ones. “I have pretty much played a different role each shift. If it’s a morning shift, we set up the classrooms and prep for activities. If it’s an evening shift, we do a full wipe down of classrooms and recess equipment to make sure it’s safe and sanitized for the next day,” says Jose.

Although this isn’t the type of work Jose is used to doing, he really enjoys working at Camp Evergreen. “I like working with the younger kids,” he says. “They have a lot of energy, so you really have to bring up your energy level. You definitely get your exercise in at Camp Evergreen!”
And it is vastly different from his job supporting teenagers. “I normally work with high schoolers, and they get most of their exercise with their thumbs on their phones!” Jose laughs.

This is a new adjustment for everyone, not just the students, but the staff as well. “I’ve been trying to stay busy and get into this routine. It was difficult the first couple weeks and kind of a shock to the system, but I’m getting into the rhythm now,” explains Jose.

Our paraeducators are doing everything they can to ensure all students continue to receive the support they need through these difficult times, and without ESPs like Jose, many would be left behind. Our paraeducators aren’t going to let a pandemic stop them from helping our most vulnerable students get the education they deserve.

THANK YOU, Jose! And thank you to all the essential workers who continue to provide for our students, our schools, and our communities.

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