“They do everything,” Danica Nelson, Students Support Service Director said. “So that is why they’re so crucial.”

Danica Nelson is the Students Support Service Director for Bismarck Public Schools, and she, along with school administrators across the region are searching for instructional aides and paraprofessionals.

An instructional aide assists students throughout the school day with curriculum, recess, lunch, personal care and hygiene needs. They also provide students with a soft landing at the beginning and end of the day in order to help them process what they need to do, and expectations for the day.

Like many professions, and schools across the region, Dr. Mark Vollmer, the superintendent of Minot Public Schools, says the district is having a difficult time filling these crucial roles.

Vollmer explained, “Yes, we’ve had difficulty finding, finding paraprofessionals at different times. Our paras are an integral part of the work that we do with our kids each and every day.”

And the number of aides needed on any given day can change day to day.
But no matter what the case may be, public schools are federally mandated to provide assistance for any student on individualized education plans, or IEP, which means a lot of revising for special needs schedules.

“You cannot execute an instructional aide schedule without many different lenses angles,” said Nelson. “And definitely that team approach when it comes to the master schedule.”

The role of an aide is also crucial for teachers, who can only get to so many kids at a time.

“Sometimes it might just be that verbal prompt, that verbal redirect of hey, get back to work,” Nelson explained. “That could change. If that redirect didn’t happen. There could be a bigger time commitment to get that student back on track, so it definitely is crucial to have the right supports.”

While aides and para’s often work with kids with some of the biggest challenges, it is a great position for those who want to make a difference in a child’s life.

“You know, a para has a big heart,” said Vollmer, “and is somebody who is is showing patience and a willingness to always meet the child where they’re at, and not necessarily where we are at as the adult.”

And it is a profession to be recognized.

“I would just say anytime you meet someone who is an instructional aide, thank them for the work that they’re doing,” Nelson requested. “Show them the gratitude, because they’re really ensuring that students have the best educational experience. And our schools would not be thriving without the instructional aide supports.”

This is also a great job opportunity for school-aged parents, as the position follows the school’s schedule.