Simpson University Hosts 1st Instructional Aide Training Day

REDDING, Calif.—Simpson University hosted 250 instructional aides from nearly 20 North State school districts on Aug. 12 for a training day designed by the School of Education.

The day, which featured presentations on a variety of topics, as well as lunch, was put together at the request of area superintendents and principals for an event centered on educational paraprofessionals.

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Instructional aides help with basic classroom management and often work one-on-one with students or in small groups, among other tasks. Some work in special education classrooms, others in traditional settings; some are assigned to work with an individual student to address specialized needs.

“They wear many hats and are a vital part of our school communities,” said Cherlyn Chairez, credential analyst at Simpson’s School of Education.

The Instructional Aide Training Day, held in the James M. Grant Student Life Center, included a welcome and opening remarks from Irene Lopez, director of the School of Education, university President Norman Hall and Provost Dale Simmons.

Session topics included classroom management; working with ACEs students; individualized instructional strategies; collaboration and teamwork with teachers; professional standards of conduct; understanding all types of special needs students; playground supervision best practices; and the paraprofessional-to-teacher pathway.

Presenters included Dr. Carol Wertz, a university supervisor and retired education professor; Don Ray, principal of North Cottonwood Elementary School; Melissa Wierzbicki, teacher at North Cottonwood; Mike Bettes, school counselor in the Cottonwood Union Elementary School District; Dr. Jennifer Costillo, chair of the Simpson University Psychology Department; and the School of Education’s Lopez.

Dr. Costillo talked about cultivating presence and mindfulness to contribute toward student self-esteem, leading attendees through a mindful eating exercise with a piece of chocolate.

Lopez led a session titled “Lowering the Affective Filter in Students” and shared some of her own struggles as a young student whose first language was not English. She offered strategies to help students become more successful in the four areas of learning: listening, speaking, reading and writing; and she asked audience members to share some of their own strategies for helping individual students.

She then encouraged the aides—some of whom traveled from as far away as Trinity County for the training day—to look for opportunities to make a difference.

“Each of you is a mustard seed,” she told them, referencing Matthew 17:20. “You have no idea the impact you will have on students and on parents. You just have to say yes to what is in front of you. Have the faith to walk out what is impossible.”



Simpson University offers multiple programs for those interested in education. The traditional undergraduate and ASPIRE degree-completion programs offer bachelor’s degrees in liberal studies. The School of Education offers single- and multiple-subject credential programs, as well as a Master of Arts in Education and a Preliminary Administrative Services Credential. Learn more at

Photos from the Instructional Aide Training Day photo booth:

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Simpson University, founded in 1921, moved to Redding 30 years ago and will celebrate its centennial in 2021. In addition to offering 25 majors in its traditional undergraduate program, the university has graduated more than 4,000 North State adults from its ASPIRE degree-completion program, and nearly 3,000 from its School of Education. It has a No. 8-ranked School of Nursing, a seminary, and master’s programs in counseling psychology and organizational leadership. Simpson University is recognized nationally by Colleges of Distinction.

Simpson is launching new athletics programs in track and field, swimming and diving, women’s wrestling, and men’s volleyball, as well as a bass fishing team. The university is also working to better serve transfer students from community colleges through its commitment to Associate Degree for Transfer agreements, and it is offering new scholarships.

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