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NEA News

Students and Staff Agree: School Can’t Happen Without ESPs

On ESP Day of American Education Week, students, administrators and teachers acknowledge the essential work of ESPs.
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Published: 11/17/2022
This article originally appeared on NEA.org

During American Education Week 2022, the school community shared their thanks for the way education support professionals (ESPs) round out education and enrich the lives of their students.

Adnan, 11, said he can’t have a positive learning experience without his bus driver, Mr. Ralph.

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“He talks to me in the morning and sometimes gives us candy in the afternoon,” said Adnan. “He also makes sure I cross the road safely.”

Adelena, also 11, said her cafeteria workers make sure they have lunch every single day that’s “nice and warm” and always have fruit and milk to make sure they have a balanced meal.

“Thank you, lunch ladies,” Adelena said.

Frankie, who is 9, is grateful for his school nurse, Ms. Culley.

“She helps us when we’re hurt, or just when we’re not feeling good, and that’s why I love Ms. Culley,” he said.

Everett Perry is a Human Resources administrator with the Canyon School District in Utah, who hires the ESPs to work throughout the district.

“Our ESPs are dedicated, they’re loyal, and they’re working their hearts out,” said Perry.

Delaware State Education Association President Stephanie Ingram agrees.

“Education support professionals are the glue that hold our school communities together,” she said. “While their job categories may differ, their end goal is the same; making sure that our students are safe, healthy, and receiving the best possible education. We cannot thank them enough for the incredibly important work that they do.”

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In Georgia, Lisa Morgan, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, said "our school secretaries, like all our ESPs, are essential to ensuring our schools open each day to our students.  Often, the first employee parents and students meet when they enroll in our schools are our school secretaries.  They are the key, as the secretary in my school said, to our Marvelous Monday, Terrific Tuesday, Wonderful Wednesday, Tremendous Thursday, and Fantastic Friday."  

Connie Jerman-Webb has been an education support professional at Gale-Bailey Elementary School, in La Plata, Maryland, for more than two decades, starting her career in 1998 as a substitute teacher. She then moved to be a food service worker and eventually accepted the position as one of the school’s Instructional Assistants (IA).

Like many ESPs who pitch in throughout the school, being an IA is not Webb’s only role.

“She is everywhere all the time,” Tangela Scales, principal at the school, said. “We just had an event in October, and she decorated the entire cafeteria.”

Webb also assists with bus duty in the mornings, helps lead the Green Club and Just Say No Club, an sometimes leads guided reading groups and covers classes when needed.

“She is always helpful, she will always be there when you need her,” Scales said.

Ashely Mondale, a high school English teacher in Leechburg, Pennsylvania, said she knows “without a doubt that teachers cannot do what we do as well as we do without our ESPs.”

She works with paraeducator Angela Vigna, the 2022 Pennsylvania Education Association ESP of the Year, who she says is “the best of the best.”

Michelle Ferretti, a Leechburg middle and high school learning support teacher, agrees.

“She works well beyond the school day to ensure that all students are receiving what they need,” Ferretti said. “Angela Vigna is a true example of the importance of paraeducators and the critical role they play in children’s academic success, social and emotional development, and sense of belonging within the community.”

Oval Garrison, the California Teachers Association NEA-Retired President has worked with ESPs all over the state and says he knows very well how essential they are.

“In addition to handling their regular tasks, they are often frontline helpers to students, noticing their private and personal problems and getting them connected to other staff for assistance,” he said. “ESPs are extra eyes and ears that make a difference in students’ lives.”

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