n. A teaching assistant, particularly one who works individually with children who have special language or learning needs.
The number of paraeducators is rising, coincident with the increase of special needs children in mainstream classes. Minnesota, for example, saw its number of paraeducators rise from 4,000 to the current 20,000 over 10 years.
The assistants want to be treated as professionals, in partnership with certified teachers. And please, don't call them aides. "We are teachers, OK? We are co-workers. I am not anybody's aide. I am your co-worker," said Virginia Rivas, bilingual instructional aide for Palm Springs Unified School District, who was answered by a cheer from the audience. The preferred term is para-educator, conference organizers said.
This word combines the prefix para-, meaning (in this case) "assistant," and educator, "someone who educates; a professional teacher." Some paraprofessionals (1967) you may be familiar with are paralegals and paramedics. Note, too, that New York University had a Para-Educator Center for Young Adults in the 1970s and 80s (earliest media reference: 1978).