The Special Skills, Qualities, and Behaviors of Effective Paraeducators

Posted By: Brenda Guerrero AASPA Blog,
The special skills, qualities, and behaviors of effective paraeducators.

Kathleen Adolt-Silva, EdD | Kelly Education  

As school administrators work tirelessly to solve unprecedented learning loss created by the pandemic—amid a staffing shortage and battling the delta variant— our students with special needs must be prioritized and given the resources they deserve. 

 Many students with IEPs are requiring more support and services because of the socio-emotional and mental health toll the pandemic has uncovered. These students need talented, trained professionals who can skillfully and compassionately respond to their individual challenges.  

Finding, developing, and retaining these crucial employees takes a strong human resources team. And frankly, most schools don’t have enough special education resources to do it effectively. 

 I joined Kelly Education, the nation’s largest provider of education talent, to create structured steps to manage paraeducators with evidence-based tools. Tools that adhere to the high standards that define both what they must know and how they must act when working with students with special needs.  

 I’m often asked, “How do you know that a paraeducator candidate has what it takes?”  

The best indicator of success is how they answer pre-hire screening interview questions. These questions should be tailored to understand behaviors for this specific role. The questions and answers are different from those asked when hiring a teacher or substitute talent. Are they calm when facing adversity? Are they a team player? Do they have a good attitude? Are they organized?  

 Here are five of our standard behavioral interview questions: 

  1. How will you handle a student’s behavior issues in a classroom? 
  2. What are your expectations of the teachers with whom you will work in the classroom? 
  3. What would you like to learn more about in this position? 
  4. You’ve explained a math problem twice, and the student still doesn’t understand. What do you do? 
  5. How will you connect with students and create positive, supportive relationships? 

At Kelly Education, we use a rubric to score a candidate’s response. It not only tells us if the candidate is qualified, but also where they need to develop once they join our team. As staffing experts, we know that not every employee is going to be a 100% match to their role during the hiring process. We look for talented, reliable, kind, patient people who can grow beyond required qualifications laid out in a job description.   

Once hired, we set them up for success through job-specific orientation coursework: 

  • Para Roles and Responsibilities  
  • Para Behavior Management Basics 
  • Para Assisting and Supporting Instruction 
  • Special Education Safety in the Classroom 
  • Cultural Competency and Bias 
  • Bloodborne Pathogens – Exposure Prevention 
  • Special Education – Introduction 
  • BIP Overview  
  • Coronavirus Awareness 

Setting paraeducators up for success is crucial to retaining them for many years. If your school is struggling to effectively hire and manage your special education talent, we can help. ESSER and ARP funding is available to meet  the growing demand for student support as a result of the pandemic.  

 As an expert, I’m available for consultation, to brainstorm solutions, or to help make the case for more resources to an administrator. This matters to me. Our kids have been through so much—they deserve the absolute best education we can offer. 

 Dr. Kathleen Adolt-Silva holds a doctorate of education, with a specialization in special education. She became personally invested in special education through having family members who are deaf or dyslexic. Kelly Education is proud to have her on our team as an in-house expert, as she uses her talents to improve special education talent at schools across the United States.