Educational assistants: support in the wings
Every school is a community of people working together to teach children comprising secretaries, a principal, teachers and — last but certainly not least — the assistants who support them.
Sandy Grade School has six educational assistants dedicated to helping those students who may otherwise get lost in the shuffle.
Krista Frank, new to the role of educational assistant this year, was a classroom teacher for over a decade. Now she's chosen to gain a new perspective.
"I love working with small groups of kids that need extra attention," Frank noted. "That's one of the reasons why I took a step back from classroom teaching. I'm super happy here this year."
The educational assistants work with small groups of children to tutor them in math and reading, and enjoy helping their students one-on-one.
"The kids are definitely getting as much attention as possible," Frank said. "I like when they read and they understand what they read. I like to try to have them read aloud at least a little bit, and discussing the book with them."
"Seeing them when they're struggling so hard — seeing it click (and) them reading full pages and comprehending strategies (is the best)," added Kathy Rasmussen.
Rasmussen started with the Oregon Trail School District 16 years ago as a volunteer when her children attended school.
Besides teachers of reading and math, the educational assistants wear many other hats during the day, from cafeteria monitor to behavioralist.
"We all probably work with behavioral problems too, not just academics," explained Donna Cole, who has worked with the school district for 23 years, beginning as a special-education assistant. "We know these kids inside and out. (One of the biggest challenges) is dealing with behavior issues and trying to follow through."
Because of this more direct experience with the children, the educational assistants appreciate seeing students' growth not only as students, but as people.
"I love to see that progression in students," budding teacher Mindy Jensen said. She is pursuing her master's degree in teaching with the goal of becoming a classroom teacher in the district next year.
"It's cool to see (the students) become really good first-graders," Cole added.
Though educational assistants spend much of their time working with students individually, when it comes to ensuring children are getting the best education possible, they present a united front.
"We're kind of like parents," Cole explained. "You don't play us against each other."
"As an EA, I'm amazed," Jensen said. "It's constant — it's every day on the go. I (appreciate) the camaraderie we have. We work with so many students and work so deeply with them. We support each other and talk with each other."
"It's a great group of EAs we have here," Rasmussen noted. "We work well together."