Every year in October, it is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. During this month, special education organizations and services all over the country and world are continuing their efforts to increase employment for people living with disabilities, as well as spread awareness about the importance of having employment. In honor of this, I will share about how I made my way towards my career: Paraprofessional/Teacher Assistant.
When I started high school, I was a volunteer through a volunteer organization in my town called, ” Marlboro TAC”. Through this organization, it taught me the importance of helping in the community, as well helped me develop skills for my career. During my senior year of high school, I received an email one day about volunteering in an elementary school in my town for a before and after care program that they provide. I was so interested, since I wanted to expand my experiences working with students. Also, I knew this would help me for my future career. That year made me develop a love of working with elementary school students!
Before I attended college, and at the end of my senior year of high school, I found out from the teachers of the before and after care program in the elementary school I was volunteering for that they would help me towards getting a job with the program. They knew I was interested in working in the education field. Through lots of recommendations, including from the area manager and a site director/job coach of the before and after care program, I was happy to get hired to work as a Teacher Assistant for the program. Fast forward with time, I still work with this program, and I am into my 4th school year now! I love teaching elementary students and witnessing their growth over the school years.
In addition, I started searching for full time employment in my last year of college, since my goal was to become a Paraprofessional/Teacher Assistant as my career. I was applying for jobs every month, and I kept a whole spreadsheet, including pictures of my applications for all the jobs I applied for. This was how dedicated I was. Plus, through the career and leadership department at my college, I gained various experiences that geared me toward my career today. I did field experience work for my future career in my town’s school district in my last year of college. One of the schools I did it in was my first, public elementary school that I attended, and it was an amazing experience! I worked with very supportive and wonderful teachers! All of experiences so far helped me gain a job, back in the summer of this year. I went through an interview for that summer job, and was happily offered the day before I graduated from college! I worked a Paraprofessional in a school district for their extended school year program.
While I working that job for the summer, I continued to apply for jobs and even went through interviews almost every week. My goal was still to gain full time employment as a Paraprofessional/Teacher Assistant. I was fortunate about all of my interview experiences, since I felt like I improved on my interview skills each time. I learned from my interview days that I had to stick with being myself and to do my best to provide short, detailed information of my experiences with children. My very last interview of this summer ended up being the one I got hired for. I worked so hard and it finally paid off! Officially, I am now part of a school district as a Paraprofessional! I am enjoying my experiences and love my career as a Paraprofessional! You may read my blog story, “A Paraprofessional living with Autism”, in which I shared about my summer job. In this story, you now have read more detailed and updated experiences that I went through to gain my career today.
I encourage families and all kinds of educators to continue their efforts to increase interests and skills into people living with disabilities. School districts could provide life skills and social skills programs to help explore interests and skills into students living with disabilities. This month should not be the only time we spread awareness about the importance of employment. Awareness and taking action to increase employment for people living with disabilities should be everyday!