Schools across the country are joining the National Education Association and its 3.2 million members today in celebrating Education Support Professionals Day. Among the day’s events and activities are appreciation breakfasts, luncheons and other celebrations to honor the individuals who work behind the scenes to support students and help schools run smoothly.
Education support professionals drive the buses, clean the buildings, prepare the meals, and bandage the scraped knees. They also include the security guards, paraeducators, office assistants and technicians. ESPs are the first to arrive at school and the last to leave, and schools couldn’t operate without them.Even though they make up more than 40 percent of all public school employees, their role in supporting students and teachers is often overlooked. (View video on ESPs on nea.org.)
“Education support professionals are public education’s unsung heroes,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “The public rarely hears about the positive impact they have on a school community. But the students get it. They know they can depend on the school nurse, the bus driver, the custodian and other school staff who care deeply about them.”
To honor ESPs locally, Van Roekel, along with ESP of the Year Helen Cottongim and NEA ESP Chair Laura Montgomery, visited Mt. Vernon Community School in Alexandria, Va., and listened to students reading thank-you notes to their favorite school staff member. Earlier in the morning, NEA Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle, Cottongim and Montgomery visited Alexandria’s John Adams Elementary where they hosted an appreciation breakfast for school support staff.
“Education support professionals should be recognized not only today but on every single day of the year,” said Cottongim, a school bus driver from Kentucky. “They do more than just provide nutritious meals and transportation. They are positive role models and play a key role in making public schools great for every child. Today serves as a reminder for students, parents and community members to thank their education support professionals who so greatly impact the lives of students every day.”
More than 78 percent of ESPs are responsible for student and staff safety. On average, they have more than a decade of experience and work more than 40 hours a week. A recent NEA survey of its ESP members found that most (86 percent) are female and their average age is 51. The survey also found:
- 80 percent work full time;
- 72 percent work in a school building;
- 43 percent work in a preschool, kindergarten or elementary school;
- 60 percent live in a small town or rural area;
- 53 percent provide care to students with special needs;
- 61 percent give money (an average of $170 per year) out of their own pockets to help students with things such as classroom supplies and field trips.