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CVTC’s Autism for Educators provides series of courses for paraprofessionals

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

CVTC’s Autism for Educators provides series of courses for paraprofessionals

Image: CVTC’s Autism for Educators provides series of courses for paraprofessionals

Kerri Shakal, a special education paraprofessional in the School District of Cadott Community, shared with the class a few books she has read in relation to diversity.

Vickie Murrey Hinrichs is always willing to learn.

The 44-year-old paraprofessional in the Bloomer School District said it takes courage to learn something new and then incorporate it in her day-to-day teachings, and that’s exactly what Chippewa Valley Technical College is helping her do.

Through a competitive Workforce Advancement Training Grant, CVTC is able to offer a series of classes about autism in the classroom. The courses are aimed at paraprofessionals who are interested in additional training. Nineteen of those local educators are taking the entire series of classes, including paraprofessionals from Augusta, Bloomer, Cadott, Neillsville, Durand, Chippewa Falls and one early learning center.

The grant covers 65 percent of the training costs, and the school districts pay 35 percent, which equates to about $800 for a paraprofessional to be fully certified with 12 credits. Those credits also can be applied to an associate degree at CVTC, said Claire Lindstrom, CVTC Business Development and Continuing Education Specialist.

“We’re always having conversations with businesses to see what they need. They all have similar challenges,” Lindstrom said. “We had worked with school districts before, but this was a new opportunity to delve into new topic areas. Anything we can do to give them help and support and extra training, we will do.”

Michelle Zagozen, director of pupil services for Durand-Arkansaw School District, is thankful for this opportunity for paraprofessionals.

“We wanted to support our paraprofessionals in developing and honing skills that they use in everyday practice and thought this opportunity would allow professional growth and networking while still being accessible to folks working full time and with other obligations outside of work,” Zagozen said. “Additionally, we wanted to continue to foster and grow the district's relationship with CVTC.”

Zagozen anticipates paraprofessionals engaging with the courses will bring increased knowledge and confidence in their skills back to the classroom.

“In the short time they have participated in the program, they have brought back ideas that may help other staff members in their interactions with all students,” she said.

Missy Lesik, Cadott Community School District Special Education & Pupil Services director, said this opportunity ties directly with paraprofessionals’ job responsibilities in her district.

“The additional education courses will help our paraprofessional staff become even more skilled at meeting the diverse needs of all of our learners,” she said.

As a paraprofessional, Murrey Hinrichs said she is learning great techniques and ideas, which she plans to use in the classroom every day.

“The acceptance of diversity is important for us teachers to incorporate within the classroom,” she said. “To be positive reinforcement, it needs to start with me. I'm learning the differences that children endure.

“I plan to incorporate my techniques by grasping the children's attention and interest, sharing different cultures through music, dance, literature and art projects. I work with other people's children. It's important to make them feel important and appreciated.”  

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