Tuesdays and Thursdays are Elizabeth Olson’s favorite days of the week. That’s because those days are when she works as a teaching aide in Alice Tumilty’s Kindergarten class at Lafayette Elementary School.
On the Thursday before Thanksgiving break, Olson worked with a table of six Kindergarten students, helping them glue shapes on to placemats that they could use for their Thanksgiving meals.
Now in her fifth year of working as a teacher’s aide, Olson assists Mrs. Tumilty’s class two days a week and also works additional hours supporting special education students.
Down the hall in Judy Brennan’s third grade class, Sharon Streib sat with a group of about 10 students as they answered comprehension questions about the story “Molly’s Pilgrim.”
In her 20th year working as an aide with Ms. Brennan, Streib also assists fourth grade teacher Nancy Beliveau with her class.
Streib and Olson are among the many aides who help out in each elementary school classroom thanks to LPIE funding. For the current school year, LPIE is spending $390,000 so that each K-5 classroom can have a part-time aide.
While these teaching assistants wear many hats in the classrooms, perhaps the most important role they play is the ability to give students individualized attention and allow the teacher to do a greater number of small group activities.
“Our instructional aides work with the classroom teachers to ensure that we meet the needs of all learners,” says Lafayette Elementary Principal Ann Kim. “Many of our instructional aides have a strong background in education and even have teaching credentials. We are very grateful to have this level of support through the donations that our families make to LPIE.”
Indeed, Nancy Beliveau says that in her classroom, Streib will target children who need extra help as the class works on math problems at the whiteboard. On other days, Streib works individually with students to focus on subjects that they’re having difficulty with or to catch up on missed assignments. Streib also has a small spelling group she works with and helps identify children that need more in-depth assistance during reading workshops.
“I am extremely grateful to have an aide in my classroom,” says Beliveau. “She has worked with me for many years, so we have our routine down!”
At Burton Valley, Sue Delamore is in her 11th year of working as an instructional aide. She is assisting in two third grade classrooms this year – one taught by Michelle Patterson and another by Amie Wenzell. Delamore also worked with Patterson when she taught first and second grades.
Delamore sees herself as a support not only to the students but also to the teachers and is willing to help wherever there is a need.
“Our main role is working with the students, but also photocopying, laminating, prep work, help with buddies class if needed, and of course, yard duty which includes keeping the children safe, helping with social situations and making sure they are happy and having fun. Anything that is thrown at us!” says Delamore.
At Happy Valley, instructional aide Laura Lashinsky is in her first year on the job. She started assisting in a fourth grade classroom during the third week of school as a way to earn extra income and also to dip her toes back into the workforce after being out for 14 years.
Like the other aides, Lashinsky says her job covers everything from photocopying to giving students extra help in the classroom. But the most rewarding thing for her has been the relationships she’s developed with her class.
“They love talking to me, they make me pictures, they hug me when they haven't seen me in a few days, and I think they appreciate me being in class,” says Lashinsky. “After such a short time of a couple of months, I feel invested in their education and part of their school life.”
The position has also given her a newfound appreciation of the hard work that teachers do.
“I have always appreciated teachers but now I have a better understanding on how remarkably dedicated they are and how challenging their jobs are,” she says.