Every school in Statesboro has its staff, teachers and students. There is a fourth component at each of these schools: instructional paraprofessionals. Known in the past as simply “the teacher's aide,” the job of school parapros, as they're called, has become an essential component of each child's daily instruction.
With all of the numerous budget cuts, many schools have begun using some of their parapros to run computer labs. These labs now have specially-designed computer programs such as “Fast Forward” that are intuitive programs that constantly challenge students to reach ever-higher goals.
In addition to running the computer labs, many parapros have special skills to help with children who are enrolled in the English for Speakers of Other Languages Program (or ESOL). The children usually speak some English, but they need adult figures with whom they can speak what will become their primary language, at least outside their home.
A perfect example of a school that employs these multi-talented para-professionals is Langston Chapel Elementary School. Under the tutelage of Principal Dr. Karen Doty, herself a National Board Certified Teacher, are five parapros who work with the older children: Jamie Gillis, Jared Fogel, Antonette Lee, Cindy Coake, and Tonya Whitfield.
Their supervisor is fourth grade teacher Amber Price, who is qualified to teach ESOL and Special Education children in the classroom setting. Price, in her ninth year at Langston Elementary, was given the duty of collecting the data in order to determine each child’s specific needs, and then make sure the parapros give them the help they need.
Dr. Doty said “You can call the parapros our big cheerleaders for the kids. They are constantly encouraging and congratulating the kids for the successes, and sitting down with them to help whenever they are having a rough time of it.” She added that “They never complain when most people would be totally overwhelmed.”
Gillis, is in her fourth year and came from Kentucky. She actually followed her children when they were enrolled at the school, and loves being able to be close by. She is in charge of the Fast Forward Lab, where her job is to help bring slower learners up to speed.
Fogel, who worked in the private sector as a psychological counselor and ran an after-school program in Metter, came to Langston to work in the fifth grade classrooms tutoring in math and reading.
Lee, originally from Emanuel County, helps to run the Fast Forward Lab. She also has worked for a number of years with migrant children enrolled in the ESOL program.
Coake came from Virginia when her husband Todd went to work for International Paper in Savannah. She also followed her children to Langston, working at first as a teacher substitute.
Whitfield, on the other hand, was raised in the states of Colorado and New Jersey, and moved to Bulloch County.
While Whitfield is a licensed practicing nurse, she said she decided she really wanted to be around kids but in a different setting. Therefore, she took the job at Langston as an instructional parapro several years ago. This group, as diverse as one could possibly get, has come together to form a really-tight team.
Doty said Langston's staff depends upon these individuals for a great deal. They know that as long as all of Langston's paraprofessionals are in the building, that their jobs will be much easier, and their students futures will be much brighter indeed.
As Dr. Doty said, “They keep everything at Langston up and running, whether or not its convenient. They always get the job done.”