Friday, January 24, 2014

Day 85 - Making Connections and Pushing New Limits

Today's post is from Jamie Harms, Student Service Coordinator and WALA and Learning Lab Paraprofessional

When I went to college it was for what I loved, what I was good at and what I thought I wanted to do for a career. I excelled while in school and enjoyed working in the field as I graduated. Unfortunately, life had a different plan for me with the change in the economy and I was left looking for a new job. Although I was extremely happy doing design work, I felt like life wanted more from me. I began looking for a job that could make a difference in someone else’s life, a job that would allow me to grow as a person while perhaps shaping the future of another human.

I became a paraprofessional because I wanted to do more with life; I wanted to make a change. I wanted to be someone that students could look back on their school years and smile about. I wanted to help develop new ways of learning, ways that harnessed the energy of students and push them to find new, creative and innovative ways to solve problems, write stories, create art or simply absorb life long lessons.

Starting a new job is never easy, often we are filled with uncertainties of what to expect and how and where exactly we will fit in. My first day at MWHS was terrifying; I think I was as nervous if not more than the incoming 8th graders. I was unsure of what to expect, hoped to make a good impression on the staff but mostly importantly I wondered how I would make a connection with my new students. My fears and doubts quickly subsided. I was warmly welcomed by all at MWHS, students and staff alike. The transition into my position as a para within our alternative learning program and credit recovery lab has been easier than I could have ever imagined. I have found new ways to connect with my students while entrusting in the background of experiences that has lead me to here.

My job could simply be to just assist students in completing their work, however I like to take the next step and help them achieve more than they thought possible. I like to push the boundaries that our WALA students have set for themselves and get them thinking, reacting, and striving. I have been working on trying to help them become better people today to prepare them for the person they will grow up to be. This is not an easy task, as stubborn as teenagers can be you can imagine the walls we have to break down to truly make a difference in one student’s future. But as each day pushes forward I am finding new ways, new connections and new methods to working side by side with our students at MWHS. It is this, that one on one connection that I am able to make with students that makes today, and everyday a GREAT day to be a White Hawk.

Back row: Megan, Jamie, Allison and Michelle
Front row: Alex and Tyler

Luis and Jamie

If you have a story that you would like to share, please email for more information! We would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Day 84 - Proud to be a part of MWHS

Today's post is from para Char Behrendt

A Paraprofessional is a person who works alongside the professional of a said field. In the school setting it is a person who works alongside a Special Education teacher. That's me! 

I have been a "para" for over 14 years. My last 9 years have been here at Mound Westonka. I am privileged everyday, to be a part of student's learning. We as adults have forgotten the struggles of learning and the things a student carries in their hearts and minds besides learning. Many times I have a student who says,"I read slow, I am dumb," or the classic, "I don't know it, I will never get it." Typical high school angst but with some of the students I work with you have to add the students specific hurdle. If your a track person you know hurdles can be mastered with lots of practice, as adults we have experienced the successes of a lot of practice; students not so much. 

I get to see the rewards that come with a students efforts. I spend time in classrooms and watch the interactions of teacher and student. All I can say is, WOW! I've seen a lot! I've seen students who would take a "0" instead of giving the required speech, have para's that help and cheer them to speaking. Some students go from turning in late work or no work to getting things in on time. We have teachers take the time to give extra guidance or a pep talk. Fellow students, yes fellow students take time to give guidance or a pep talk. Peer examples are abundant. Peer acceptance is abundant. I am proud to be a part of something that pushes and supports students to be the best they can be.

If you have a story that you would like to share, please email for more information! We would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Day 83 - Celebrating Para Professional Week!

Last week we celebrated Para Professional Week at Westonka. This week the MWHSPride blog will feature blog posts from several outstanding paras that work at MWHS!

Today's post is from paraprofessional Annalisa Millimaki

I am proud to have worked as a paraprofessional at Mound-Westonka since 2008. My job is to work alongside teachers to help students with special needs in the classrooms. I have enjoyed every minute of my six years for many reasons.

First of all, the students at MWHS are the main reason I come here everyday! They are caring, compassionate young adults who work extremely hard to be successful. They also are so supportive of each other. When I was growing up, students with special needs were often excluded from general education and were not always treated well by their peers. Times have changed and luckily, this is less and less the case, but there is something special about the way MWHS students interact so genuinely with each other. It isn’t because they think they have to, it’s because they are genuinely great people! I can say with confidence that MWHS has the BEST student body in the state!

In addition, the administrators, teachers, and staff in this school work really well together. I think it is because we all are truly here for the students and we all care about each other. Several of us even get together socially inside and outside the high school walls. I actually attribute my own back-to-college endeavors to the encouragement I’ve received from my co-workers. This is the most supportive atmosphere I have ever worked in!

Lastly, I feel that I do some of the most rewarding work there is to do in this world. The students I work with everyday never cease to amaze me! Despite their struggles due to their disabilities, they ALWAYS rise to the challenge, and when they accomplish their goals, they are on top of the world! Not only are they hardworking, but they are so funny! They are always making me smile and laugh when they tell jokes or are being silly. For these reasons and many others, I am extremely proud to be an MWHS paraprofessional and a White Hawk!

If you have a story that you would like to share, please email for more information! We would love to hear from you!