Paraeducator Conference helps paras connect outside the classroom  

March 14, 2024

There are few outlets quite like spending time with those who understand you, your frustrations, triumphs, and moments of joy.

Being a paraeducator is a unique and nuanced role, and CSEA’s Paraeducator Conference is about connecting and celebrating our community.

Paraeducator Conference

Largest event of its kind
While Paraconference is known for its classes and training opportunities, it is also the largest event of its kind catered specifically to paraeducators. There is no other environment where you can find yourself not just in a room with a few of your peers, but a convention center with nearly 1,300 of them.

“You may be sitting at a table on your laptop working by yourself, and three other people sit down,” said Paula Pelton, who serves on the Coachella Valley Retiree Council. “You get to learn where other people are from, you learn their goals, and you learn about their difficulties. But you also learn that there’s so much out there beyond your own circle. You take these friends with you for the rest of your life.”

Opportunity to connect with other paraeducators
That’s why as much as we focus on learning workshops at Paraconference, this week is also about the opportunity to slow down. Spending time with people who understand you is invaluable and providing opportunities to connect paras from across the state is part of what makes this conference so special.

After a packed Tuesday to start the conference’s 27th year, Wednesday was another day of classes, and afterwards, food trucks lined up at the Ontario Convention Center for attendees to grab dinner and spend the evening catching up with old friends and making new ones.

That night in the Ontario Convention Center’s enormous exhibit hall, Association President Adam Weinberger led a massive game of Loteria, with other board and tabletop games scattered across tables for attendees to spend time together in smaller groups.

Paraeducator Conference

Activities encourage self expression
This year also marked the return of the puzzle piece activity to the exhibit hall with an area dedicated to space for members to freely express themselves, their goals, and their creativity.

For many attendees, this is the only opportunity they have each year to not just spend time on professional development, but to socialize and learn from their fellow paras.

Luz Maria Allshouse, secretary for National Chapter 206 in San Diego, came to Ontario with a group of 11 colleagues who don’t see each other often due to being spread out across school sites. Paraconference is a time for them to reconnect and gain validation.

'It's a social thing'
“It’s a social thing for us,” she said. “Our group is very close, but we don’t see each other at work because everybody is at different schools. It’s about learning and for me it’s also about ‘Oh I’m doing that, I’m doing it right.’”

Though attendees didn’t filter out of the convention center until 9 p.m. on Wednesday evening, Paraconference is far from over. Thursday morning features even more educational classes before the closing celebration begins and our attention turns to the 2025 Paraconference.

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