Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover with Stephanie Graham


How did you become a paraprofessional?

  • Used to live in Hannibal, Missouri
  • Husband is a teacher 
  • They had visited Nixa before and loved the area
  • Husband landed a job teaching in Nixa 
  • Stephanie used to be a woman’s dorm director for a college 
  • After moving to Nixa, got a job as a paraprofessional at the high school 
  • Worked with kids with learning disabilities and physical handicaps 

What are some things that you do to help break down the barrier between you and the student you are helping?

  • By building connections and relationships
  • Through being goofy and not being overly stern 
  • A slightly different role than a teacher 
  • She gives her students space unless she sees they aren’t on task 

A paraprofessional has the unique opportunity to experience so many different classrooms. What is that like?

  • Stephanie feels it is very beneficial because she gets to see so many teaching methods 
  • She can become critical of some classroom management styles
  • But, she’s also able to learn how the students do and do not like to be interacted with 

A paraprofessional gets evaluated yearly

  •  She makes suggestions during her yearly evaluations, such as giving paraprofessionals more training 
  • She feels like she struggled during her first year because she didn’t know what she was doing and wished she had more training 
  • Now she tries to help new paraprofessionals if she sees them struggling

How much are you told about the students on your caseload?

  • Stephanie has an idea of what to expect
  • The IEP is helpful 
  • But it would also be useful if she was given a note about their personality 

How does it feel to work in a system that is titled “broken”?

  • Stephanie feels there are more issues with kids’ mental state nowadays 
  • There’s more stress for the teachers 
  • And there are too many tests and a lot of data collection that adds pressure

What has the transition been like from when you first became a paraprofessional to now?

  • Stephanie is happy with her job because she gets to build relationships with the kids
  • She’s also grateful she doesn’t have the pressure of dealing with parents or meetings
  • Plus she gets those school breaks to spend time with her family! 
  • Every day is different and it keeps her on her toes 
  • She doesn’t get paid as much as a teacher, but her job is beneficial and she doesn’t see herself leaving
  • At first, she took the position because she needed a job.
  • Now she’s made it work for her and she enjoys it

Would you share more about what happened with your bachelor’s degree in graphic design?

  • Stephanie was going to add in a degree in art education but was forced to graduate with a graphic design degree due to her number of credits
  • She didn’t go back after she graduated because she didn’t qualify for any financial aid 
  • Then, she tried to find a job in graphic design, but the software she had learned at school was out of date 
  • Eventually, she decided not to pursue a career in graphic design 
  • Finally, she got her job as the dorm director at the college she got her degree from 
  • Which she was grateful for because she was able to be home with her kids
  • While she was frustrated with her degree situation,
  • She feels like she ended up where she needed to be.

Will you tell us more about where you grew up?

  • Stephanie grew up a bit in this area, then moved near Lake of the Ozarks, then to St. Clair
  • Her dad was a pastor and they would move when he would get new positions 
  • She grew up in a strict and very sheltered home
  • When she got to college she experienced a new environment and new people
  • She feels like this helps her understand her students better 
  • Because students’ environments influence their behavior
  • Even if the student is not behaving, she still cares about them and wants them to know that 

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  • Not therapy capped at a certain number, but an open-ended relationship with a highly qualified therapist in the BHC network.

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