Feature Stories

Celebrating Paraprofessional Appreciation Week

The classrooms, hallways and outdoor spaces of Minnetonka Schools are filled with the hard work and dedication of hundreds of paraprofessionals. From helping teachers with classroom activities to providing additional support to individual students, the job of a paraprofessional can vary greatly. In whichever position they may hold, however, paras provide the foundation for positive educational opportunities and specialized learning experiences for students.

"Paras are able to interact more closely with students for longer periods of time than teachers typically can," explained Kaari Cox. Ms. Cox is a Special Education teacher at Clear Springs Elementary, and she works closely with many paraprofessionals including Anne Burnett, Jodi Lee, Mary Jean Watras, Tara Fink and Jolie Stellmacher. "They are all vital to providing students who have higher needs with the adult support and connection that they require," she adds. "We could not do it without them!"

For many paraprofessionals, COVID-19 brought additional responsibilities. With the elementary school hybrid learning model used this year, classes were divided up into smaller "pods," many of which were supervised by paraprofessionals. Elisabeth Solfelt, who teaches 1st grade Spanish Immersion at Clear Springs, described how the paraprofessionals she works with have gone above and beyond in their typical role by helping to lead their own "pod" and planning unique, experiential learning activities for students each day along with the classroom's teacher.

"Dailyn and Kellie have assisted with math, reading, and morning meetings, solved problems with students, and created a classroom community," Ms. Solfelt explained. "While many would shy away from this huge responsibility, they have taken on the challenge boldly and have sought to make this year unique and special for the first graders."

When asked what she would like to say to thank the paraprofessionals she works with, Ms. Cox said, "They say it takes a village to educate a child, and I am lucky to have the best village ever! I could not be an effective teacher without you, not only for the support you provide to the kids but for your collaboration, insight, humor, and energy. You really are the backbone of our room, and I am immeasurably grateful for all of you every day."

"[Kellie and Dailyn] have each made me a better teacher by partnering with me to give my students the best first grade experience possible," Ms. Solfelt added. "Hardworking doesn't even begin to describe [them], and I could not be more grateful to have [them] on our team. The Minnetonka community should know that there are heroes like Kellie and Dailyn working in every school, giving light to students in a hard time!"

Paraprofessionals are an integral part of students' day-to-day lives at school. This week, make sure to thank your paraprofessionals for their incredible dedication to creating positive learning experiences for students around the District!

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