Betty Ashbaker, special education program coordinator in the McKay School of Education, is a founder and author of a recently released website offering teaching resources to paraeducators and teaching assistants.
The International Site for TAs and Paraeducators (education14a.byu.edu/istap) is available for all teaching assistants and teachers who supervise them. Site materials include (1) research-based tips and tools for more effective teaching; (2) discussion of legal, ethical, and propriety issues related to the field; and (3) information about specific disabilities and syndromes.
“The number of teaching assistants and paraeducators working in schools is increasing,” Ashbaker said. “It is important for them to learn about the students and [understand] how to tailor teaching to their special needs. It is vital to improving the quality of teaching.”
Sarah Smith, a paraeducator at Butler Elementary and 2010 recipient of the Utah Outstanding Early Childhood/Pre-K Paraeducator Award, said the website made her aware of disabilities she hadn’t heard of before and ways to help children with those specific learning disadvantages.
“I think every paraeducator should study this site,” Smith said. “It is beneficial both for the new paraeducator and for those who have been working in the field for years.”
The website includes advice from professionals in educational institutions around the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. It is a collaboration of Ashbaker with Jill Morgan, director of the Foundation Degree in Learning Support at the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David; and Elizabeth Tatum, a doctoral candidate at the University of Queensland, Australia, and a former paraeducator.
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