By Heather Hale
The school year is well underway, yet many local schools still aren’t fully staffed. Certified staff such as aides, paraeducators, bus drivers, and food service workers brighten every student’s day in and out of the classroom.
These staff also give our kids the individual attention they need to be successful, yet Great Falls Public Schools struggle to fill these positions year after year. However, for the right person, these unique jobs provide a fun, stable working environment.
To learn more about how paras and aides function in our schools, I sat down with Amber Anthon to chat about her five years working for the school district and what’s next in her working life.
Spoiler alert: her job as a para educator led to big developments in her career!
Here’s what Amber had to say about her job-
What drew you to apply with the school district?
My children and I had wonderful experiences at Morningside Elementary. As my children grew older I became interested in working outside of the house.
I found there was a rewarding opportunity to fill in at the school as needed for a year and when an opening as a paraprofessional came about, I was encouraged to consider and apply.
Being involved in my children’s school gave me an appreciation for the work that is being done there on a daily basis.
Also, I knew when I entered the workforce again, I wanted to work with children.
When you first started your job as a paraprofessional, what training and support were you given by GFPS staff?
I was mentored by an out-going paraprofessional, principal, and teachers. All of whom made it their mission to see me succeed so that the children I worked with could succeed.
There were three days of on-the-job training, there were wonderful professional teachers in the classrooms, and there was an open-door policy with the principal.
All of which made me feel welcome to ask questions, to correct mistakes I made, and to learn how best to support students and teachers in the classroom.
In addition, there are many training opportunities offered through the district, on a weekly basis. These were opportunities to meet with other paraprofessionals and have questions answered, techniques were offered, and fellowship with others who had similar concerns.
How did your job as a paraprofessional impact your family and home life?
Only for the better!
My years as a stay-at-home mother were precious and I wouldn’t trade them for much, but there is something to say about isolation. It was wonderful to be able to contribute to the household financially.
I also had the best work schedule possible for a mother.
I worked when my children were in school, I was off when they were off. I also found that being in a classroom allowed me to be so much better at things like helping my own children with homework, and communicating with my child and their teacher.
What were the biggest challenges of working in support services for GFPS?
I liked that I was challenged enough to keep the job interesting and not so much as to feel overwhelmed or unable to do my job.
Some of the biggest challenges of working as a one-on-one paraprofessional come from knowing where my role started and stopped. I grew very fond of the child I worked with and wanted so much for her to succeed.
I would often wonder if I was pushing her enough, or not enough? But it was a challenge that I looked forward to everyday.
What do you feel were the biggest victories throughout your time working for GFPS?
The biggest victories were never really mine. They belonged to the child I worked with.
Her successes were my successes. Her victories whether they were social, or academic, or physical, were a real celebration for me. I loved watching light bulbs turn on for the student.
As I worked hand-in-hand with teachers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and parents, there was a team celebration for all of us lucky enough to have a front-row seat.
What’s next for you in your professional life?
After working for the school district for 5 years, (4 as a paraprofessional) I was inspired to return to school and pursue a Master’s degree in elementary education.
I loved my time as a paraprofessional and was so inspired by the many teachers, principals, and professionals I met that I felt I needed to make this my career as well.
I feel I’ve been able to gain great resume experience and built bridges within the school district.
If you are looking to and be rewarded daily, Great Falls Public Schools is accepting applications for paraeducators, aides, food service workers, and substitutes. Find all the details right here: https://www.applitrack.com/greatfalls/onlineapp/default.aspx?all=1.
Change a child’s life and change your own life by submitting an application today!