Why MPUSD » Shannon Cavanaugh-Pareño: ‘Collaborating ensures students are being supported in the classroom’

Shannon Cavanaugh-Pareño: ‘Collaborating ensures students are being supported in the classroom’

Image of Shannon Cavanaugh ParenoShannon Cavanaugh-Pareño

Speech Language Pathologist

Olson Elementary School

Shannon Cavanaugh-Pareño’s passion for behavioral and social communication dates back to the late 1990s, when her older sister recruited her to work with students with autism spectrum disorder as part of an in-home discrete trial program. It was during this time that Shannon discovered her love of the field and working with children.

She pursued a psychology degree at University of California, Berkeley and immediately jumped into working with children experiencing emotional disturbances for a short period in a non-public school setting before moving to Japan to teach English. While in Japan, she became inspired with language development and communication, in particular.



“I always wanted to be in a job working with people and building connections and the basis of that is communication. My passion for communication and language led me to the field of speech language pathology,” she says.

Shannon started as an assistant and began networking with peers in speech language pathology to confirm whether or not she wanted to pursue a permanent career path as a speech language pathologist. She enjoyed it so much that she completed her master degree in speech language pathology at San Jose State University. While in her master program, she was also part of a grant for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Through her grant participation, she acquired specialized skills and knowledge to support students with significant and complex communication needs with the use of low to high technology communication systems, including the use of speech generating devices.  

She began her career in public education in San Diego before moving to the Central Coast with her husband and boy/girl twins. She connected with the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District because of its demographics. “I love the students I serve, especially at Olson Elementary School,” says Shannon. “I feel so fortunate to work with the school psychologist, occupational therapist, special education and general education teachers. They are all wonderful to collaborate with, which is an important part of our job because we can’t exist on an island.”

Shannon believes strongly that communication is the basis of social connection and acquiring learning, especially through experiences like the COVID pandemic. “We learned how important it is to be in touch with each other, and I like to help advocate for students who have needs in the areas of communication and language. I especially like seeing them make progress,” she says.

“The students at Olson Elementary are special,” says Shannon. “From our general education, special education to LEAP (Language Enrichment Academic Program) programs, I feel that we have a diverse student population that I get to serve and support. This keeps me on my toes and I get to make connections with a variety of students, as well as work with staff from all areas of the school.”

Shannon’s average day consists of working with small groups of students on speech sounds or language development, pushing into a LEAP class to help students develop and work on their functional language, administering assessments, observing on the playground or in the classroom, and connecting with the school psychologist or occupational therapist. “Collaborating ensures students are being supported in the classroom,” she says.

The best part of her day is being greeted by students when she walks into their classroom to pick them up for services. “I love seeing them make progress, their ah-ha moments, achieving something they couldn’t do a few months before, or the smiles on their faces. Seeing them work harder, learn and build relationships with each other and their teachers is very inspiring,” says Shannon.

“We have a lot to offer at Monterey Peninsula Unified as far as building relationships and connecting with family and students. Teachers and staff really come together to make sure we are supporting our students fully and giving them a worthwhile learning experience.”

Outside of work, Shannon enjoys spending time with her husband and five-year old boy/girl twins, exploring beaches, forests, the aquarium and zoo. They love being outdoors, and she is an avid runner. She also has a four-legged child, a Golden Retriever named Finn.