Training and Staff Development
Overview and Project Goal
In counties where the New Jersey SNAP-Ed Program is large enough to support paraprofessional and professional staff for oversight, we follow the paraprofessional model of hiring staff, for teaching small groups of adults, that are indigenous to their communities and target populations. Paraprofessional new-hires usually have neither previous training or teaching experience, nor nutrition background. A variety of staffing patterns exist for youth education.
Within the SNAP-Ed Program and paraprofessional model, there is a tremendous need for new staff training in the areas of:
- Delivering research-based, behaviorally-focused, activity-oriented nutrition education to limited resource audiences
- Program evaluation, and
- Facilitation techniques for working with a variety age groups and ethnicities
Our new-hire paraprofessional orientation consists of 4 weeks of extensive training in the following areas:
- Learning the USDA Dietary Guidelines, MyPlate, Food Label, as well as how they can be made applicable to our target audience
- Learning teaching skills to facilitate group discussions
- How to learn to teach a new lesson, from receiving written instructions, to preparing lesson materials, and finally delivering the lesson in a professional manner
- Policies, procedures and required paperwork
- Computer training on the ERS system which enables them to demonstrate program impact, as well as to prepare diet analysis print-outs for the adults in their classes
These four weeks of state level training are followed by an orientation in their county or local offices regarding local policies and procedures, and the shadowing of more seasoned staff, for as long as necessary before they start teaching.
On-going education and staff development occurs at the local level at least monthly. State staff provide assistance to local level supervisors on an as needed basis. Bi-monthly meetings are held at the University for first level supervisors of paraprofessionals to identify their needs, and collaborate on solutions.
Additionally, two "Team Meetings" are held annually for EFNEP and SNAP-Ed Program staff. Attendance for these meetings is required of all SNAP-Ed Program and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) professional and paraprofessional staff. Secretarial staff are required to attend in the spring. The morning session for these meetings usually features a nutritional or program update and/or speakers who aim to enhance staff professionalism. The afternoon sessions generally provide workshops in which new lessons are demonstrated.
- Educators will provide optimal learning experiences through the delivery of state approved behaviorally-focused, learner-driven, outcome-based lessons
- New educators will be trained to provide behaviorally-focused, learner-driven, outcome based education through a research-based educational approach and by learning to teach appropriate lessons
- Educators will have scheduled county/regional trainings throughout the year, focusing on the implementation and evaluation of state-approved behaviorally focused lessons.
- Full day state-wide training sessions on improving nutrition education programming (Team Meetings) will be held for nutrition educators twice during the fiscal year with records of attendance and agendas being mandatory
- Four week new employee training sessions will be held twice a year with records of attendance and agendas being mandatory
- Schedules for local training will be developed in projects to be held at least monthly with records of attendance and agendas mandatory
- County site observations will be scheduled on a regular basis with Site Observation evaluation forms to be completed for all nutrition educators seen and filed at the local state office