Feature Stories

Celebrating Paraprofessional Appreciation Week 2024

Minnetonka Schools is celebrating Paraprofessionals Appreciation Week from January 22-26. Paraprofessionals play an important role in supporting students, from helping teachers in the classroom to providing additional help to individual students. This week, make sure to thank your paraprofessionals for their incredible dedication to creating positive learning experiences for students around the District.

Heidi Koehnen is the Health Para at Deephaven Elementary and has served students in  Minnetonka Schools for many years. “If I were to describe what being a para in our district looks like to me, I would describe it as being a thread woven between many,” explained Koehnen. “Together we are like a blanket. We bring strength, support and reinforce the ability to cover each child.”

“The love of our students and a staff that becomes family is the reason I am here each day,” she continued.

Dan Peso, Spanish Immersion Para at Minnewashta Elementary, is the para mentor of his building. This year, he is working with a Kindergarten classroom, but his experience spans from teaching high school Spanish to supporting special education classrooms and school day routines, like end of the day student pick-up. He appreciates the work-life balance present in his role as a paraprofessional, as well as the opportunity to be a positive role model for students while nurturing their growth.

“My favorite part of working with kindergartners is that they are like sponges. They’re able to absorb so much during their first year, the transformation by the end of the year is amazing. And to see them do it in Spanish is absolutely mind blowing!” said Peso. “Something that people might not know about paras is how much we care for the kids that we work with. We’re here not only to help the teachers, but to help foster a positive and supportive space for the kids on a daily basis so that they can continue to thrive. We love what we do and who we work with!”

Qian Xu is a Chinese Immersion and Special Education Para at MMW. She was one of the District’s first Chinese Immersion paraprofessionals hired at the start of the program in 2007 and worked with students at Scenic Heights Elementary before moving over to MMW. “My favorite part of the job is when the children overcome a challenge and explain ‘Oh, I get it now!’ and ‘I understand!’” shared Xu. 

Thank you, Paras, for your dedication to fostering a positive school community, this week and every week! 

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