State offers educator training as school districts struggle to fill vacancies

  • Facilitator Sue Lyons speaks at the morning session of ‘Building Effective Teacher /Paraeducator Partnerships’ at the Department of Education offices at Granite State College on Wednesday, August 17, 2022. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Facilitator Sue Lyons speaks at the morning session of ‘Building Effective Teacher /Paraeducator Partnerships’ at the Department of Education offices at Granite State College on Wednesday, August 17, 2022. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Facilitator Sue Lyons speaks at the morning session of ‘Building Effective Teacher /Paraeducator Partnerships’ at the Department of Education offices at Granite State College on Wednesday, August 17, 2022. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Facilitator Sue Lyons speaks at the morning session of ‘Building Effective Teacher /Paraeducator Partnerships’ at the Department of Education offices at Granite State College on Wednesday, August 17, 2022. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Spanish teacher Jenny Manzelli (left) engages in a workshop discussion at the morning session of the “Building Effective Teacher/Paraeducatior Partnerships” at the Department of Education offices at Granite State College on Wednesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Facilitator Sue Lyons speaks at the morning session of ‘Building Effective Teacher /Paraeducator Partnerships’ at the Department of Education offices at Granite State College on Wednesday, August 17, 2022. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Facilitator Sue Lyons speaks at the morning session of “Building Effective Teacher /Paraeducator Partnerships” at the Department of Education offices at Granite State College on Wednesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Goffstown paraeducator Stephanie Hughes (left) and Gilmanton School teacher Alexis Swiezynski discuss their experiences at the morning session of ‘Building Effective Teacher /Paraeducator Partnerships’ at the Department of Education offices at Granite State College on Wednesday, August 17, 2022. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Spanish teacher Jenny Manzelli (left) engages in a workshop discussion at the morning session of the ‘Building Effective Teacher/Paraeducatior Partnerships’ at the Department of Education offices at Granite State College on Wednesday, August 17, 2022. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 8/17/2022 4:42:19 PM

When Goffstown paraeducator Stephanie Hughes returned to the education field in 2021 after years away, she immediately recognized school had changed.

Hughes started her career as a preschool teacher but left to raise her own children. When she returned to work last year, she saw right away that student needs were at a high point, as was the demand for paraeducators, who assist teachers and specific students with activities throughout the school day.

“For certain grades, like third grade, that was their first full year of being in an elementary school all day long,” Hughes said. “It was interesting seeing how things have changed, the expectations for the kids have changed, the way that we support their needs have changed and developed.”

Hughes is seeking more professional development hours as she renews her certification, so when she heard about a training session hosted by the New Hampshire Department of Education specifically focused on paraeducators, she decided to sign up.

On Wednesday, Hughes was one of eleven participants – a mix of paraeducators and classroom teachers – gathered at the Department of Education’s Hall Street offices in Concord for the training session focused on improving classroom partnerships. The state is holding several training workshops in different towns over a three-day period in partnership with education consultants 321 Insight, to help support paraeducators amid a statewide staffing shortage.

“Districts and schools can’t function without paraeducators, and that’s never been more true at any other time in history as it is today,” said Sue Lyons, who led Wednesday’s training for 321 Insight. “I think the teachers and paras are facing challenges that were greater than any they anticipated, because of COVID-induced lockdowns, and the kids are coming back having lost a lot of the foundations that they left with when schools first shut. We’re seeing an increase in behavior challenges, and we know that paras are an integral part of helping to address those challenges.”

In Concord’s morning session, participants discussed the challenges they face in the classroom and proactive steps paraeducators can take to collaborate with teachers to resolve any issues. The afternoon session focused on proactive behavior strategies, how to identify the root cause of students misbehaving and address their needs before the behavior escalates.  Besides Concord, trainings were held in Derry on Tuesday and Whitefield on Thursday.

School districts around the region are having a hard time filling paraeducator positions this summer, as many say there is a shortage of candidates. Many have been turning to job fairs and signing bonuses to attract candidates for the 2022-2023 school year.

Kathryn "Joey" Nichol, Title II Education Consultant with the Department of Education, said one para who attended a session in Derry on Tuesday didn’t have a job, but left the event with three opportunities lined up.

Nichol said the department decided to hold the trainings because many school districts have been requesting them for their existing and prospective employees. Wednesday’s participants were encouraged to attend the training in classroom teacher and paraeducator pairs, to learn strategies for working together.

“When those people start in the fall, they're going to have a better idea of what they want, and how they can better work with the students,” Nichol said. “That's what we're trying to do, be our best so the students can be their best.”

Dan DeQuoy started working as a paraeducator in the Manchester School District in December 2020 at the height of the pandemic, after five years of substitute teaching in Nashua. DeQuoy, who is working toward his teacher certification, is always looking for more professional development opportunities, so when he heard about the training through work he signed up for both the morning and afternoon sessions. 

DeQuoy said the paraeducator shortage has been a big challenge at his school, as many students returning to classes post-lockdown require extra support from staff.

“With kids coming back after they've been out for so long, behaviors have been ramping up,” DeQuoy said. “But we're getting better, hopefully this year will be a better year.”

New Hampshire’s Executive Council approved a $193,100 contract with 321 Insight using American Rescue Plan Act funds. More sessions will be held throughout the school year in various locations around the state.


Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.



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