26 years of celebrating, connecting and educating California’s paraeducators
The 26th Annual Paraeducator Conference welcomed over 1,000 paraprofessionals, 35 presenters, and hosted 74 class sessions
The 26th Annual Paraeducator Conference in Ontario, CA welcomed 1,156 paraprofessionals from 199 school districts, marking the return of in-person attendees for the first time since 2019.
As one of CSEA’s most popular events, this annual gathering of paraprofessionals stands alone as the premier conference for instructional aides, paraeducators, class assistants, and others pivotal to supporting California public education.
“This was my first conference and I am so happy to be here. I feel so refreshed and I feel like I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge.”
- Kessia Lopez of Downey Chapter 248
For many, this was their very first paraeducator conference, also known colloquially as “paraconference”. As part of CSEA’s mission to serve members, professional development remains a key priority for the Association, especially where there is a need.
“This was my first conference, and I am so happy to be here. I feel so refreshed and I feel like I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge,” Kessia Lopez of Downey Chapter 248 said on day two of the conference. She works as a senior instructional assistant with behaviorally challenged students in Downey.
“I’m so much better equipped to implement some of the techniques and strategies I’ve learned in the classroom.”
In the last 26 years, CSEA’s paraeducator conference has existed to connect classified employees to the latest educational techniques and trends, providing opportunity for CSEA members to develop professionally.
The 26th Annual Paraeducator Conference was held at the Ontario Convention Center, April 4-6, 2023
Compared to their certificated counterparts, professional conferences are often hard to come by for classified employees, leading CSEA to spearhead events such as the Paraeducator Conference.
“It’s easy to get burnt out because it can be overwhelming. I work in special education and some days, I feel like I hit a wall,” said Lopez. “But having professional development events like this conference is really helpful; learning about different strategies and tools to use with my students will really make a difference.”
With over 35 different classes offered and over 70 sessions hosted, attendees of the conference were given the opportunity to choose classes most pertinent to their professions and their students.
“It's really great and heartwarming to know everybody is so student-driven. There have been a lot of great opportunities to network with other schools and learn from their successes.”
- Donnie Samano of Moreno Valley Unified Chapter 410.
Classes offered a wide array of topics, from interactive workshops with conga drums to classes highlighting ways to support multilingual learners and students dealing with alcohol and substance abuse. As a result, hundreds of thousands of students across California will undoubtedly benefit from paraprofessionals learning the latest educational techniques and trends.
“It can be challenging when you don’t necessarily have all the tools and information exactly offered to you up front as an instructional assistant,” said Maria Felipe of Victor Elementary Chapter 236, who works as an instructional aide with elementary school students in Lodi.
“Hearing about a lot of different ideas, suggestions, pointers, and experiences from other paraeducators helps. It’s kind of like ‘Hey, this worked at other schools. Maybe it can be a tool we can use.’”
This year's Paraeducator Conference was the first in-person conference since 2019
Throughout the three-day conference, a spirit of educational development was vibrant throughout the Ontario Convention Center.
In addition to paraprofessionals learning new strategies, those who attended all their classes also received professional certificates from CSEA following the conclusion of conference.
But one of the most important takeaways was really about the shared experiences many paraprofessionals carry with them. Whether through a class, seminar, or workshop, members discovered among their peers, they were often not alone in their triumphs and challenges with students.
"One thing that I've kind of noticed is how we've bonded in some of our trauma. It's good to know that other people are kind of going through the same thing you are and we're all trying to attempt to make it better for it for our kids,” said Donnie Samano of Moreno Valley Unified Chapter 410. He works as an instructional assistant for special education students in Moreno Valley.
“It's really great and heartwarming to know everybody is student-driven. There have been a lot of great opportunities to network with other schools and learn from their successes.”
Since debuting in 1998, CSEA’s annual paraconference has been known statewide by members and district administrators alike as the premier training and development opportunity for paraeducators.
Taking place every spring, information on next year’s paraconference will be available online. For more information and updates, visit www.csea.com/paraconference.