MNPS Voices: Danenita McAdams

Danenita McAdams, Paraprofessional at Ross Early Learning Center
Posted on 12/02/2021
Danenita McAdams

The day of a paraprofessional looks different from week to week, but the irreplaceable support that they provide a classroom is a constant. Classroom support could look like the one-on-one implementation of lesson plans or teaching a student to use a utensil.

Danenita McAdams knows all of this.

McAdams began her career as a substitute teacher and is now an Exceptional Education paraprofessional at Ross Early Learning Center.Danenita McAdams One of the MNPS schools she frequently helped offered her a full-time role as a paraprofessional after 20 years as a substitute, and she was happy to accept more time to do what she loves.

“Being a paraprofessional means supporting the lead teacher and sometimes even leading the class when needed,” McAdams said. “You have to do just as much as the teacher does in most cases and step in where needed.”

Pre-K classrooms focus on learning through play and developing basic skills. A day in McAdams’ class involves learning to wash hands, eating breakfast, visiting work zones, free choice time, singing songs together, and participating in specials selected by the teacher. On a recent Friday, students created butterflies out of coffee filters and decorated them with paint droppers. The butterfly activity allows students to use their fine motor skills, practicing the coordination of the hand, eye, and brain.

“Pre-K helps students become socialized to the school setting and to develop fine motor skills that are building blocks for bigger academic skills,” McAdams said.

Working with these young learners is rewarding to McAdams, because many of the students come to her as a blank slate. By the end of the year, any advances they make are huge, no matter if they have learned to identify a letter or pull out their chair. Every gain is celebrated with hoorays, claps, raising the roof, use of noisemakers, and other positive feedback.

One of McAdams’ favorite stories of success was teaching a non-verbal student how to communicate with sign language. By the end of Pre-K, the individual could ask for what he needed and continued to use the signs outside of school.

“I saw this student’s sister practicing the signs with him, and it warmed my heart — we help turn these blank slates into beautiful pictures,” McAdams said.

Being such a big part of exceptional education students’ lives requires work outside of the classroom to build trust with their parents and families. Families who know McAdams call her “Ms. D” — removing another possible barrier of how to pronounce her name. McAdams updates parents regularly and teaches them techniques from class and shares what can be implemented at home to support those academic and motor skill gains. She says that communicating often and in depth makes all the difference.

The work of a paraprofessional is active and non-stop and requires a passion for the work like McAdams shows every day. This year she is trying to drink more water and take more walks to care for herself as she cares for her students. In another act of self-care and personal advancement, she hopes to attend graduate school in the next few years — but can’t see herself doing anything she would love more than being in a classroom.

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MNPS Voices,Team MNPS