Thanks to the dedication of supportive family and quality paraeducators, Tyren Warner who was born with cerebral palsy, recently graduated along with the rest of his class from Burlington High School. In an emotional ceremony held at Johannsen Gymnasium, hundreds of attendees cheered and applauded Warner as he wheeled his way across the stage, to the joy of his mother Deedra Warner, his peers and teachers. While of course it was exciting for all graduating students who were proudly holding up phrases such as “I made it,” or “I’m so gone,” the truth was, it was Warner who’d really “made it.”
It was paraeducator Patty Jo Amenell who helped Warner while studying at Burlington High School. According to special education paraeducator at Waters Middle School, June Harrington, “paraeducators are able to build strong bonds with children because we work so closely with them. Although there are some days when I am surprised that I keep my sanity, those days are far outnumbered by the rewards of watching a child smile because they were able to accomplish even the simplest of tasks.”
Paraeducators are supervised by teachers, and it is often to them that parents, social workers and other caretakers turn to when they have a question about the child with a disability trying to navigate the mainstream school. Without these paraeducators, students with cerebral palsy like Warner would have a much harder time at a mainstream school and may even need to be transferred to a special-needs school.
These hard-working paraeducators are the bridge between mainstream schools and students with disabilities. They prepare learning materials and implement behavior modification plans; they help watch over playground activity. Since they do so much and respond to so many different upcoming and changing needs, it is often hard to precisely pinpoint the role of paraeducators, but, for students like Warner, they are a true lifeline. And his recent graduation ceremony proved that.
Following the ceremony, around 20 of his friends and family were waiting for him, many of whom were clad in orange, which is his favorite color. “It’s good to graduate,” he said quietly and slowly. Then Amenell said it must be fun and exciting and he nodded his head with a huge smile in response. She pointed out how he took two types of classes – regular ones and some adaptive ones – and she also said that he was extremely capable to keeping up in the regular classes. Indeed, not only did he graduate, but Warner did so with high honors.