NNELI: Investing in Paraprofessionals is Time and Money Well-spent to Benefit ELs

Shawn Pennell, Raggio Research Center for STEM Education, College of Education, University of Nevada


The Northern Nevada English Learning Initiative (NNELI) is a National Professional Development Grant Program NNELI: Investing in Paraprofessionals is Time and Money Well-spent to Benefit ELsfully funded by the Office of English Language Acquisition of the United States Department of Education. The grant was sought by University of Nevada, Reno, College of Education, Associate Professor of TESOL Rod Case, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, along with Co-Principal Investigators, Jacque Ewing-Taylor, Ph.D., and David Crowther, Ph.D., in consortium with the Washoe County School District. NNELI was funded in May 2012 and continued for five years with a total grant award of $1,935,167.


NNELI: Investing in Paraprofessionals is Time and Money Well-spent to Benefit ELsThe NNELI program targeted three groups of educators in order to improve instruction to English language learners: pre-service teachers at UNR and classroom teachers and paraprofessionals in WCSD. This article will focus on the paraprofessionals. Over the span of the five years, 57 paraprofessionals completed the nine-month, nine-module hybrid-online professional development course in order to improve instruction to English language learners. Based on an initial needs assessment of paraprofessionals and their lead teachers and the priorities of the grant, program developers chose to include ten topics. Although they changed over time, the nine modules included the grant priorities- second language acquisition theory and inquiry-based science instruction- as well as topics in technology proficiency; professionalism; cultural competence; district-level programs such as PBIS/SEL, WIDA and GLAD/SIOP; as well as instructional shifts associated with the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).


NNELI: Investing in Paraprofessionals is Time and Money Well-spent to Benefit ELsEach module included a face-to-face session at either UNR or at the WCSD Matley Lane Professional Learning Center as well as online tests and content. Each participant maintained a paper or electronic journal and was required to reflect on the course material and how it applied in the classroom context. Assignments included research on the school’s PBIS plan and a written plan on how the paraprofessional would support PBIS in three areas of the school. Another assignment was to write an inquiry-based lesson plan. Once that plan was completed, the paraprofessional added differentiations for WIDA levels, and then, in the final lesson plan, added SIOP components and GLAD strategies. Although the lesson plans were by far the most difficult assignments across all four years, they were also lauded as a major accomplishment when written about in final reflections. Paraprofessionals learned persistence and resilience as they walked the path of every educator in teacher preparation programs- how to apply the Academic Content Standards in a teachable, engaging lesson. Additional work included self-directed learning modules through SkillPort on the topics of technology, decision making, and communication.

NNELI: Investing in Paraprofessionals is Time and Money Well-spent to Benefit ELs

A favorite quote from the class is: “This was a very good class and I am thankful, even though I tried to quit many times.”


Course completers are as follows:


Name Cohort Year
Ana Villegas 2013-2014
Britnie Marquez 2013-2014
Cynthia Koch 2013-2014
Daisy Frye 2013-2014 working toward a degree
Jody Wagner 2013-2014
Londy Hidalgo 2013-2014 non-completer, but became a teacher
Orlando Quiroz 2013-2014
Rosa Elena Mamani 2013-2014
Stacy Grimes 2013-2014
Timothy Jonidis 2013-2014
Angelica Morales 2014-2015 Graduated in HDFS and working on teaching degree
Debbie Reeder 2014-2015
Maria Guadalupe Des Jardin 2014-2015 Close to becoming a licensed teacher in NV
Michelle Adams 2014-2015
Trina Garcia 2014-2015
Alma Brubaker 2015-2016
Analisa Allen 2015-2016
Cheri Kelly 2015-2016
Claudia Pollard 2015-2016
Erika Aylesbury 2015-2016 Teacher through ARL
Jana Jacobsen 2015-2016
Jona Cowell 2015-2016
Lisa Williams 2015-2016
LouAnn Russell 2015-2016
Maria Arevalo 2015-2016
Martha (Lucy) Acevedo 2015-2016
Milly Corneil 2015-2016 Bilingual & investigating a teaching degree
Miriam Mendoza 2015-2016
Monica Downard 2015-2016
Norma Hernandez 2015-2016
Veronica Cervantes 2015-2016
Yadira Lopez 2015-2016
Zeida Miranda 2015-2016
Allyson Green 2016-2017
Amy Howell 2016-2017
Analine Acevedo 2016-2017
Andrea Grigg 2016-2017
Audra Hammerling 2016-2017
Carmen Ortiz 2016-2017
Constance Evans 2016-2017
Esmeralda Garcia 2016-2017
Gloria Lara 2016-2017
Jacqueline Weatherford 2016-2017
Julie Staniszewski 2016-2017
Kim West 2016-2017
Laura Rodriguez Roman 2016-2017
Lisa Romero 2016-2017
Lorena Reyes 2016-2017
Margarita Ayala 2016-2017
Mary Winter 2016-2017
Nicola Blumkin 2016-2017
Nicole Wise 2016-2017
Sandra Lopez 2016-2017
Sandra Valdez 2016-2017
Sue Schlottmann 2016-2017
Timothy Hines 2016-2017
Wendy Allison 2016-2017