Paraeducator love-bombs

Emily Coelho's origami.Photo: Sara Barber-Just

Paraeducators are an integral part of the school community. Typically, they are assigned to specific students in need of additional academic or emotional support, but they often move beyond their stated role.

There are 44 paraeducators currently listed in the staff directory as being employed at the high school. Some paraeducators are assigned to particular departments, like the special education department or the library, while they frequently cover hall duty or monitor lunch. And some paras go way beyond all that.

Paraprofessional Emily Coelho enjoys making origami while on hall duty and leaving her artwork around the school for other people to discover. Initially learning how to fold origami by making paper cranes, she said creating objects like these serves as an “effective practice of mindfulness” for her.

“I like crafts and I found it was kind of relaxing, so I just started learning to make different types of origami,” said Ms. Coelho.With her origami, the paraeducator combines both practical usage and intricate designs, using patterned paper. “I like to make boxes, envelopes, and bookmarks. I like to make things you can use,” she said.

Although she usually works alone, Ms. Coelho mentioned that she has taught students how to fold origami on several occasions after being requested to do so. “Some people find it very frustrating, and some people find it very relaxing,” she said, reflecting on the craft. Despite the large amount of complex origami tutorials available online, Ms. Coelho prefers to stick with the less complicated projects.“There are some really difficult origami out there that I want to try, but I like the simple stuff,” said Ms. Coelho.

Ultimately, Ms. Coelho creates origami with the intent of making a positive impact on the school environment and improving the day of students or staff who discover her creations, not for gaining recognition. “This really makes me happy, and leaving them it them hallway seems to make other people happy,” she said.

Like Ms. Coelho, paraeducator Gail Abbott also likes to bring joy to colleagues and students at ARHS and does so by giving little gifts–some anonymous and others purposeful.

On Valentine’s Day, Ms. Abbott left unsigned photo cards in some of the teachers’ mailboxes. After Community Day, she made a photo book for the school which visitors to the school can flip through when signing in at the main office.

“She recently gave me a gift of photographs of peonies, which she said reminded her of flowers I’d love,” said English Department Head Sara Barber-Just. “And she delivered these amazing smelling soaps to me one day just because. They smell so good that I left them in my room to freshen the air.”

She also gave Assistant Principal Mary Custard a framed print this year and has baked homemade chocolate cookies for English teachers. “I feel like she’s a fairy godmother on our hallway, sprinkling a little love and kindness on everything she touches,” said Ms. Barber-Just.