Ann R. Flynn, Ph.D. is a 2020 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dr. Ann R. Flynn at her Dissertation Defense.

From L-R: Dr. Lize Booysen, Committee Chair, Dr. Jon Wergin, Committee Member, Dr. Susan Dryer, Committee Member

Dissertation Committee

  • Lize Booysen, DBL, Committee Chair
  • Jon Wergin, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Susan Dryer, Ed.D., Committee Member


Paraeducator, paraprofessional, agency, leadership without authority, critical pedagogy, instructional leadership, ethics and democracy

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Paraeducators play an important role in the classroom supporting students and certificated teachers. However, literature on the actual roles of paraeducators has revealed that paraeducators are rarely included in the teaching team (Patterson, 2006). Paraeducators are frequently asked to perform difficult or unpleasant jobs and may not be recognized as important professionals who support the educational system (Giangreco, Suter, & Doyle, 2010; Lucero, 2010). Surveys and interviews have shown that paraeducators view themselves differently from how coworkers view them (Chopra, Sandoval-Lucero, Aragon, Bernal, De Balderas, & Carroll, 2004; Patterson, 2006). The purpose of this phenomenological study was to gain a deeper understanding of the positionality and lived experiences of K-5 paraeducators from an urban school district in the Pacific Northwest. This research focused on exploring the positionality, agentic, and systemic influences on paraeducators. Qualitative data were drawn from 12 participants, using demographic checklists, 21 interviews, and the researcher journal. First, a pilot study was conducted with three paraeducators; this flowed seamlessly into the expanded study. A researcher journal documented affective elements of interactive data collection and bracketed the researcher’s potential biases. Data were transcribed and analyzed using thematic coding and constant comparison, viewed through a general lens and a critical theory lens. Key themes, supported by the critical narrative data from the dialogs with paraeducators, are reported. Then, using the lens of critical theory, supported by educational and leadership perspectives, I discuss the potential impact of the conclusions on paraeducators’ positionality and practice in the U.S. K-5 public school system, with the possibility of transformation. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA, and OhioLINK ETD Center,


Ann R. Flynn

ORCID Scholar ID #: #0000-0002-9251-9824

Dr. Ann R. Flynn for the past 24 years, has been an advocate for the underserved populations of students, staff, and teaching professionals in the U.S. Public School system, including immigrants, refugees, homeless, and other special need students and their families.

Ann is a professional certificated teacher with endorsements in Special Education, Early Childhood Education, and Reading. She began her career at the Tone School for the Homeless in Tacoma, Washington, before going on to serve as a Program Specialist for the Head Start Program. Her experience provided her with the impetus to pursue the opportunities to explore advanced teaching and leadership opportunities.

Ann has continued to live her mindsets of growth and life-long learning by earning her Master of Arts degree in Education, and her professional credentials to serve as an administrator and principal in the U.S. Public schools. This publication submitted to public access research marks her successful culmination of her doctorate in Leadership and Change from Antioch University, as well as her continued dedication to sharing information so that all might succeed.

Most importantly, through her research, presentations, publications, and mentoring, Dr. Flynn is dedicated to making sure that the voices of those who have never been heard become heard. While urban public school paraeducators are her current focus, no-one is exempt from Dr. Ann’s compassion and support.

Ann R Flynn, PhD, is bi-cultural of Latvian decent, a dedicated family member, and community member. She always recognizes the role of family and community in contributing to her continued advocacy and success.