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South Salt Lake Journal

Do you have what it takes to be a paraeducator?

Oct 30, 2019 04:22PM ● By Bill Hardesty

Attendees to the Granite School District special education paraeducator hiring fair fill out job applications. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

On Sept. 25, the Granite District Para Committee held a paraeducator job fair. While paraeducators are used throughout a school, this fair focused on special education. 

"The fair was a success with 30 to 40 hires as a result of the fair," Michele Morgan, a member of the District Para Committee, reported. 

At the fair, attendees completed an application and then were interviewed. 

Shelby Silver, a 22-year-old attendee from South Jordan, said, "This is something I always wanted to do. I used to help my mother in her classroom. I just want to help people." 

"There is always a need for people to come build a good relationship with the students," Jennifer Christensen, assistant principal at Cyprus High School, said.

Missed the fair? Don't worry. Paraeducator positions are available on the Granite School District (GSD) website The positions are not listed separately. You will need to look for keywords like childcare or behavior support or instructional assistant.


A paraeducator is an adult assistant in the classroom. Formerly called teacher's aides, the term paraeducator better represents their expanded role.

The National Education Association (NEA) report, "Employment of paraeducators has grown steadily and their functions have changed dramatically since they were introduced into classrooms as teacher aides in the 1950s. Their duties are no longer limited to recordkeeping, preparing materials, or monitoring students in lunchrooms and other settings. Today, paraeducators are active team members that provide assistance with instruction, classroom management, and other direct services to students and their families."

In the Granite School District, there are three types of special education paraeducators:

Resource paraeducator which is a person that helps one-on-one or a small group that comes in and out of the resource classroom every day.

Inclusion paraeducator is a special paraeducator who works with a student that has a medical issue or just needs extra support during the day.

Special classroom paraeducator are assigned to work in one special classroom. These classrooms are a different classroom setting for students who may need more support than in a regular classroom. 

Whichever the type, special education paraeducators care for the student's physical and emotional health and safety, affirm their abilities, and strive to promote dignity in all relationships.

Morgan outlined the qualifications: Have a high school diploma or GED, be able to lift 50 pounds, be a responsible person, have a positive attitude and be patient working with children.

Depending on the type of paraeducator the starting wage is either $11/hr. or $13.20/hr. The district provides additional districtwide and in-school training allowing paraeducators to change lanes and increase their pay.

Key groups for hiring

GSD Special Education are focusing on three key groups that a paraeducator job might be the right fit for.

Parents: Morgan indicates this is a great job for a stay-at-home parent. Their schedule would match their children. 

College Students: For college students thinking about becoming teachers, this is an opportunity to get experience. The on-the-job training will also help in their college studies. Another incentive is the Paraeducator to Teacher Scholarship (PETTS) program administered by the Utah Board of Education. Eligible paraeducator will be awarded up to $5,000 per year toward tuition costs.

Coaches: Often an individual wants to be a coach, but their current job doesn't allow the time. Being a paraeducator allows these individuals to work in the school and stay to coach their team. Granger High School head football coach, Pala Vaitu’u, is a paraeducator.

Morgan explained why people should get involved.

"I just think it is a wonderful opportunity not only to earn some money, but I just feel like it is a such a great chance to make a difference in somebody's life. I think this is one of the biggest benefits of working in the schools. You can't do anything better with your time then to work with a student and watch the lights go on and make connections,” Morgan said. “It is the best feeling in the world."