Elementary and Secondary School Teacher Assistants - What They Do

Elementary and secondary school teacher assistants support students, and assist teachers and counsellors with teaching and non-instructional tasks. They assist in areas of personal care, teaching and behaviour management under the supervision of teachers or other child care professionals. They are employed in public and private elementary, secondary and special needs schools and treatment centres.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:

  • Assist students with integration into the classroom and school setting
  • Help students individually or in small groups with assignments and reinforce learning and retention concepts under the supervision of classroom teacher
  • Assist students with special needs using techniques such as sign language, braille and remedial programs
  • Monitor and report student progress to classroom teacher
  • Accompany and supervise students during activities in school gymnasiums, laboratories, libraries, resource centres and on field trips
  • May assist teacher in the operation of projectors, tape recorders and other audio-visual or electronic equipment
  • May assist in school library or office and perform other duties assigned by school principal
  • May monitor students during recess, at noon hour or during the day.

Job titles

  • secondary school teacher's assistant
  • special education assistant
  • educational assistant
  • elementary school teacher's aide
  • remedial education aide
  • educational resources assistant
  • school lunchroom supervisor
  • homework assistant
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:

  • Completion of secondary school is required.
  • Teacher assistants usually require completion of a 10-month college program in teaching assistance, educational assistance or other social science program.
  • Teacher assistants who help students with special needs usually require specialized training and experience.

Essential Skills


  • Read notes from parents providing information on students. (1)
  • Read notes from teachers explaining what they are to do in class or asking for feedback on a student. (2)
  • May read novels, stories and textbooks on various subjects to tutor students. (2)
  • Read memos from the school board, Ministry of Education or union representatives, outlining policies or procedures. (2)
  • Read teacher's curriculum to know what is being covered and how to prepare for class. (3)
  • May refer to the school policy manual to deal with particular situations, such as aggressive behaviour or emergencies. (3)
  • May refer to journals, manuals, magazines, textbooks and reports to keep up-to-date with the education field and teaching techniques and for information on how to deal with students with particular problems. (4)

Document use

  • Use class lists to contact parents and to take attendance. (1)
  • May read labels on art supplies or on medicine that they are to administer to children. (2)
  • Read and update student progress reports on attendance, performance and behaviour in student folders. (2)
  • Refer to weekly activity schedules, such as gym times and yard duties. (2)
  • May use pictures from magazines or books and drawings on flashcards as teaching tools. (2)
  • May help students learn how to read and complete forms, such as bank debit and withdrawal forms. (2)
  • May read assembly drawings to help students in auto and machine shops. (3)
  • Complete forms, such as detention, school suspension, permission or accident forms. (3)


  • May write short notes to students about their work or behaviour. (1)
  • Write letters to the administrator requesting supplies and equipment. (1)
  • Fill in a log or report to provide information about activities, students' behaviour and accomplishments. This may be used for planning or to develop learning goals. (1)
  • Write notes to themselves to record ideas for preparing tutorials and materials. (1)
  • Write notes to teachers about progress and activities. (2)
  • May write letters to parents on students' progress and upcoming extracurricular activities. (2)
  • Write suspension reports carefully documenting incidents. (2)
  • May edit student papers by writing comments and corrections on them. (3)
  • May write reports and observational notes about student progress for student records. (3)


Money Math

  • May collect money for trips or activities and make change. (1)
  • May help students learn about the value of different coins and bills and how to add the cost of purchases and make change. (1)
  • May help students learn about interest charges. (2)

Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math

  • May budget the expenses of trips and activities. (2)
  • May schedule their time with classes and students. (2)

Measurement and Calculation Math

  • May help students learn about measurements, such as length, time, temperature and weight. (1)
  • May measure medication to give to children or measure ingredients when baking or cooking with children. (1)
  • May help students learn about basic geometry. (2)

Data Analysis Math

  • May keep track of how often students perform certain behaviours to monitor their progress and the effectiveness of behaviour modification strategies. (1)
  • May calculate percentages for reports such as attendance records. (2)
  • May help students learn about averages and their applications. (2)

Numerical Estimation

  • May estimate the quantity of paper and other supplies needed for certain activities. (1)
  • May estimate how many activities the students will complete in a certain time to determine how much preparation is needed. (2)

Oral communication

  • Listen to announcements over the public address system. (1)
  • May contact suppliers or service representatives to order supplies or arrange field trips. (1)
  • Listen to students to sense their moods. (2)
  • Tell or read stories to the class. (2)
  • Interact with other teaching assistants to share ideas and practices. (2)
  • Interact with and take direction from teachers to co-ordinate class activities, plan teaching schedules and exchange learning ideas and information about the students. (2) , (frequently)
  • May resolve conflicts between students. (2)
  • Interact with parents to discuss a student's progress or behaviour and upcoming activities. (2)
  • May interact with counsellors or school administrators to exchange information, receive instructions or make timetables. (2)
  • Participate in staff meetings, conferences and training sessions. (3)
  • Communicate with students to provide instructional assistance, support and direction and to offer reassurance and comfort. (3)


Problem Solving

  • Deal with students who are chronically late for school. They gather information on the reasons for the tardiness and try to find solutions. (1)
  • May determine how to involve parents in their children's education, without creating conflict. (2)
  • Find ways to incorporate different learning styles into the curriculum. (2)
  • Deal with behavioural problems or learning problems by determining the cause and finding ways to help the student. (3)

Decision Making

  • Make decisions about how to reinforce and practice lessons. (1)
  • Decide what types of support material to use as teaching aids. (1)
  • Decide when to talk to their supervisors about problems. (1)
  • Decide when to change activities to adapt them to a student's abilities. (2)
  • Decide how to discipline students and whether an incident should be reported to school administrators or parents. (2)
  • May decide what action to take when a fight or argument occurs between students. (2)
  • Decide how to adapt the classroom material to help students with special needs. (3)

Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking information was not collected for this profile.

Job Task Planning and Organizing

Elementary and secondary school teacher assistants plan their days within the framework of the activities planned by the teachers. Their priorities and work plan often change during the day, however, depending on the needs and demands of students.

Significant Use of Memory

  • Memorize the names of students in the various classes where they are assisting.
  • Remember special instructions from teachers and supervisors about specific classes or students.
  • Remember variances in the curriculum for different types of classes.
  • remember procedures for assisting special needs children.

Finding Information

  • Learn about students through their school records. (2)
  • May consult with the teacher or school psychiatrist to get information needed to assist particular children. (2)
  • Get information to supplement curriculum materials by talking to teachers or other teaching assistants. (2)
  • Find information to plan field trips, such as possible destinations, transportation schedules, activities and accommodations. The information is found in school libraries or obtained from maps, from co-workers and by phone calls to service providers. (2)

Digital technology

  • They write reports and letters to parents. (2)
  • They may prepare teaching materials. (2)
  • They may enter information into attendance reports. (2)
  • Use educational packages. For example, they assist students to develop skills. (2)

Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Elementary and secondary school teacher assistants work independently in the classroom with students but are part of a team working to teach and assist the children. They may work directly with a teacher as the teacher's helper.

Continuous Learning

Elementary and secondary school teacher assistants have an ongoing need to learn. New subject material is learned as needed. New strategies to meet educational needs and manage behavioural problems are learned through experience working with students and from teachers and colleagues. Elementary and secondary school teacher assistants occasionally attend conferences sponsored by school boards and may take first aid courses and crisis intervention training.