Go Local: Efforts Underway to Elevate the Paraprofessional Role

Elevate the Paraprofessional Role

“Why are we searching so far outside of school neighborhoods and not investing our time, money, and capacity into the people within our own communities?”

This critical question was center stage last week as members of Throughline Learning (formerly Highlander Institute) and Baychester Middle School met with Bronx educators and local organizations to discuss the "Community Educator" concept.

As a partner school in Throughline Learning’s Community Educator initiative, Baychester MS invited their current employees who live in or close to the school neighborhood. Spanning roles such as paraprofessional, school aide, and secretary, participants expressed a passion for culturally responsive education and creating empowering experiences for local students. Their interest in supporting local students and families — and helping them feel seen, uplifted, and trusted by their schools — provided powerful support for the Community Educator concept.

Dr. Meisha Porter of the Bronx Community Foundation elevated these perspectives to a group of school principals, district administrators, nonprofit representatives, alternative pathway providers, and CUNY staff committed to brainstorming collective strategies to diversify the teacher pipeline. The rich conversation provided insights from professionals across educational systems, highlighting both opportunities and concerns, and setting the stage for additional partner sites to explore Community Educator programming.

We are grateful for the insights provided by educators and community members across systems in the Bronx last week, and appreciate the hospitality of Dr. Porter. Establishing proof points of innovative staffing models and roles are crucial to attracting more talented community members to education professions. We are excited to launch the community educator concept at Baychester beginning next school year and to share our learnings.