Erika Frazier wasn’t thinking about a career in education when she left Michigan and came to Chicago to care for her grandmother. Her family had always been involved in Christian ministry, so she saw her life as one of service but not necessarily in education. For those who have worked with her, it is not a surprise that Ms. Frazier will celebrate her twelfth year as a paraprofessional at CICS Ralph Ellison.
Parents of diverse learners understand the role that paraprofessionals play in the academic lives of their children. CICS parent, Ms. Vivan Davis said, “ Mrs. Frazier is a great help to my daughter. I love that she takes her time to explain things to her so she understands.”
Throughout her professional career, Ms. Frazier worked at other schools in the Chicago area but ultimately found a home at Ralph Ellison and her niche as a paraprofessional working with diverse learners. She was drawn to that particular student population as she experienced so many rewarding moments in watching her students grow and go above and beyond expectations. Erika’s kind but no nonsense personality is something her students’ parents value. She has created long-term relationships with many of them through her consistent and persistent outreach. For Ms. Frazier, her customer service skills were learned early on in her professional life when she worked in a hotel. Having a people skills has become an even more important part of her job as families of diverse learners are often overwhelmed by the multiple challenges they face. She ensures that families are aware of upcoming events in their students’ lives, understand options when problems arise and see her as an advocate for their child.
Navigating Remote Learning
Now, more than ever, paraprofessionals who have established face to face instruction, prior to remote learning, provide diverse learners with a sense of personal connection and continuity that can help these students to continue to progress. Ms. Frazier is even more present for her students, using every available tools (phone calls, video chats and email) to ensure that they are learning. She is with each student in their Zoom classrooms, keeping an eye on their level of participation, checking on them if they appear to be lost or confused and, most importantly, creating a culture where diverse learners feel safe but are also held accountable. For students on the autism spectrum, she finds ways to encourage them to express their emotions in safe and appropriate ways. While her primary role is to assist them in their academics, Ms. Frazier is also aware of the need to make sure that diverse learners are learning life skills and will be able to navigate the world after they leave Ralph Ellison.
Erika Frazier is continuing her own education and has been attending Grand Canyon University part-time, with the goal of becoming a SPED teacher. She sees this as the next step on the path in her education career. Until then, Ms. Frazier will continue to support her students. She is continually energized by feedback from parents, occasional connections with former students and seeing younger siblings and cousins of her students choose to attend Ralph Ellison.
Ms. Erika Frazier has been a paraprofessional at CICS Ralph Ellison for 12 years. Prior to coming to Ralph Ellison, Ms. Frazier worked at Proviso West High School in Hillside, IL. Ms. Frazier is currently attending Grand Canyon University to complete her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Special Education.