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California Paraeducator Named Education Support Professional of the Year

Special education aide has been a student advocate for 28 years in the same community in which she grew up

ORLANDO, Fla. - March 12, 2016 -

Doreen McGuire-Grigg, a special education paraeducator in California’s Lakeport Unified School District, has been awarded the 2016 National Education Association’s (NEA) top education support professionals (ESP) honor.

An advocate for students, champion for ESPs, and a special education paraeducator for 28 years, McGuire-Grigg was named ESP of the Year during an awards banquet, March 12, at NEA’s ESP Conference in Orlando, Fla.

Approximately, 2.8 million school support staff work in the nation’s public school systems, with more than 75 percent working at the K-12 level. McGuire-Grigg is a long-time advocate for the inclusion of ESP and worker voices in her district and her union.

“I think of my school’s office staff, including our bus drivers, groundskeepers, paraeducators, food service professionals and I am so proud that they have supported me and pushed me forward. I thank them and carry them with me as I celebrate this wonderful honor,” said McGuire-Grigg, who works at Terrace Middle School in Lakeport. “We get up every day and the work is tough and we sometimes don’t get the respect we deserve, but we go to work with our students because it’s where we belong. We love to take care of our students.”

McGuire-Grigg is an admired leader with the California Teachers Association (CTA), where she has been a member since 2006, when CTA changed its bylaws to include education support professionals as full-fledged members. McGuire-Grigg quickly joined the committee that helped write new bylaws for every CTA affiliate in the state. In 2011, she became the first ESP member to be elected to a statewide CTA position, representing 5,000 ESP and 20,000 teachers from 16 counties.

“She has spoken on behalf of children, paraeduator careers and the role of ESP in educating the whole student, making sure students are safe, healthy, engaged, challenged and supported. She has advocated for students on Capitol Hill, in her home state of California and her local community,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. García presented McGuire-Grigg with a trophy, bouquet of roses, and a $10,000 check on behalf of the more than three million NEA members across the country.

More than 1,000 ESP and other educators from across the country attended the three-day conference in Florida. Attendees celebrated the 25th anniversary of the conference; the theme was “Uniting, Inspiring and Leading the Whole Student.” Members attended workshops and networking events and heard from education leaders such as Dr. James Comer. Dr. Comer founded the Comer School Development Program in 1968; the program promotes collaboration between parents, educators, and communities to improve social, emotional, and academic outcomes for children. His concept of teamwork has improved the educational environment in more than 500 schools throughout America.

McGuire-Grigg grew up in the same community where she now works. Her father was a teacher and administrator with the Lakeport Unified School District for more than 35 years.

“I am so excited to represent my ESP colleagues as I travel the country and tell our stories. We must stand proud and show our strength as we are so, so strong,” said McGuire-Grigg.

California Teachers Association President Eric Heins nominated McGuire-Grigg for the award. “When it is necessary to advocate for our ESP constituents and students, Doreen is front and center steering the charge,” he said. “She leads by example every day.”

Last September, when the Valley Fire struck her community, McGuire-Grigg arranged to have bedding, cooking supplies, clothing and other necessities made available to school employees, neighbors, and others who had been affected by the fire. “We had many people who suddenly became homeless,” said McGuire-Grigg, who in addition to providing basic needs, also bolstered spirits. “We coordinated donations of items for the families displaced by the fire in our community.”

As ESP of the Year, McGuire-Grigg will represent NEA and other ESP at national education conferences, media events, and other community occasions. She will deliver a speech this summer at the NEA Representative Assembly in Washington, D.C. 

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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers. Learn more at

Contact: NEA Communications