By Ryan Fan
My first year, I struggled with a difficult classroom and managing that classroom, but my paraprofessional, Dalania Lang-Powell, went above and beyond for my students and their needs. Myself and the students know her as Ms. D. She initially came to my self-contained classroom a couple weeks into school, working with a student with an emotional disability.
However, she not only serviced that student, but built relationships with that student’s friends, as well as everyone in the classroom. Not only did she forge great relationships, but she was incredible at her job and helped keep her student on track and focused. Because of her efforts, his grades improved. Every single day he came into school, he greeted her with a smile.
She was incredibly helpful to me, too, and I don’t think I’ll have another para like her. I struggled mightily during my first year with the typical first year teacher problems, and Ms. D not only helped me with the one student, but many of them. Whenever I needed something from the main office, she offered to help. Whenever I needed to hand out papers, tape posters to the wall, or hand out writing utensils, she would help.
Ms. D and I went to lunch every single day together, and I felt like I had much more than a para in the classroom. I genuinely felt like I had a co-teacher who not only helped the student she was assigned, but the whole classroom. Ms. D especially helped during emergencies and when direct intervention from the office was needed.
I talked to Ms. D a bit to ask her questions about her work as a PSRP. Ms. D is not only a paraprofessional, but she is the mother of six kids, all students in Baltimore City Public Schools as well. She goes above and beyond for her students much like she does for her own kids.
She became a paraprofessional because she likes to help students that need extra support. But she is very busy as well, as the mother of six children, but she has a mission in the classroom to “care for my student or students like they are my own” to keep her focused on her work. For her, the most rewarding part of the job is “seeing smiles on my students’ faces at the end of the day” and making sure they get the help they need.
Specifically, I will always recall during my first year that whenever a kid had a crisis and needed to cry, Ms. D was the first person they would approach. Her style of helping suited her student and a lot of students in the classroom — she often did the assignments with the students and guided them through graphic organizers and exit tickets. In one instance, I remember that she guided a student who got into an accident to the nurse, and stayed with him until his mother came to pick him up. Through all of our shared struggles in the classroom, she never lost her patience, never lashed out at a student, and always supported me wherever she saw I needed help.
As both a mother and a paraprofessional, Ms. D has her hands full. But that doesn’t stop her from giving everything she has to her student, and go above and beyond with no incentive whatsoever.
Ryan Fan teaches at the REACH! Partnership School. He worked with Ms. D at NACA II Freedom and Democracy Academy during the 2019-2020 School Year.