Paraeducator Conference attendees reflect on impactful time in Ontario

March 15, 2024

Paraeducators are responsible for critical and ever-evolving aspects of their students’ education.  

But who educates the educators? That’s the gap that CSEA’s Paraeducator Conference has filled for 27 years.  

As this year’s Paraeducator Conference came to a close on Thursday at the Ontario Convention Center, attendees left equipped with new tools and techniques to take back to their classrooms, as well as new connections and friendships.  

Paraeducator Conference 2024

A 'wealth of knowledge'
“Each [class] was a home run,” said Alex Soto of Salinas 149. “Every single class, every single instructor was absolutely amazing. It was a wealth of knowledge. I had to get a second notepad because I was writing down so much.”  

While the presenters and classes offered learning opportunities for paras that can’t be found anywhere else, attendees at Paraconference often found themselves learning from their peers too.  

Severiano Valenzuela from Brawley 335 attended his first Paraconference and found the sense of community and social aspect of the conference especially fulfilling.  

“It was more than I expected,” said Severiano. “That was one of the parts I liked the most. You get to socialize and share experiences and feelings outside of your work environment. You can have somebody know what you’re going through and doing, give advice.”

Paraeducator Conference 2024

Paraeducators share ideas and collaborate
Experience is a tremendous teacher and the opportunity to share ideas and collaborate is another invaluable aspect of Paraconference.  

“I never realized until this conference what the magnitude of it was,” said Joe Hilliard from Escondido Elementary 150. “There’s a lot of collaboration."

Hilliard had wanted to attend Paraconference for years but never had the opportunity. By chance, a member of the group from his district had to drop out at the last minute and he jumped when he was offered their spot.  

“If there’s one thing you’ve got to do, you’ve got to come to this conference,” he said.  

Paraeducator Conference 2024

Reassured that you're not alone
It can be easy to feel isolated when others may not quite understand your role as a paraeducator, but attendees at Paraconference leave feeling like their worlds expanded. Not only have they picked up new knowledge to carry with them, but they leave with the reassurance that they’re not alone. They have union siblings across the state who understand and support them.  

“You’re among, for lack of a better term, your own,” Alex explained. “All of us are in the battle together. More often than not when we’re explaining certain situations, we get what they’re talking about within the first sentence. Being amongst that and being able to share our experiences, it helps us learn even more. That is just absolutely amazing to be able to experience.”  

Save the date for next year
Paraconference will return to Ontario March 11-13, 2025 and if the 27th conference was any indication, the 28th will be one to remember.

This article was written by CSEA Sr. Communications Specialist Matt Murphy