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NEA salutes public education’s unsung heroes on National Education Support Professionals Day

Annual event highlights role of ESP in students’ lives

WASHINGTON - November 16, 2016 -

Schools across the country are joining the National Education Association and its nearly 3 million members today in celebrating National 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 (ESP) are critical members of the education workforce. They include paraeducators, secretaries, custodians, tradespeople and technical staff. They also include school security officers, school bus drivers, food service workers, and those who work in health and student services. ESP meet the most fundamental needs of students, enabling them to reach higher levels of knowledge, achievement, and student success. Even though this critical group of employees makes up more than one-third of all public school employees, their role in ensuring that students are mentally, physically and emotionally ready to learn is often overlooked.

“Education support professionals should be recognized today, and on every single day of the year,” said National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García. “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.”

This year President Eskelsen García, along with 2016 National ESP of the Year, Doreen McGuire-Grigg and National Council for Education Support Professionals President, Debby Chandler, will visit Roger High School in Spokane, Wash. NEA teamed up with the DUDE. be nice project ( to pull off a series of surprises for the school’s self-proclaimed “lunch bunch” cafeteria workers. The DUDE. be nice project is a platform to inspire people to build a positive community by recognizing a person or group in a fun, creative and meaningful way.

Seventy-five percent of ESP live in the communities where they work and on average, each has more than a decade of experience. ESP are educated, well-trained, experienced and committed to students and their success. Of NEA’s almost 3 million members, almost a half million are ESP. Divided into nine career families, paraeducators are the largest career family with almost 250,000 members.

National Education Support Professionals Day is part of NEA’s 95th annual American Education Week celebration, taking place this year November 16-22. The occasion was first celebrated in 1987 after NEA’s Representative Assembly, the Association’s decision-making body of nearly 10,000 member delegates, called on the organization to honor the contributions of all school support staff. National ESP Day is observed on Wednesday of American Education Week.

About American Education Week

Celebrated the week prior to Thanksgiving, American Education Week began in 1921 with the NEA and the American Legion as cosponsors. The goal was to generate public awareness and support for education because of concerns over illiteracy. A year later, the U.S. Office of Education signed on, and the PTA followed in 1938.

American Education Week’s 2016 tagline, Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility, is a reminder that all Americans must do their part to help create great public schools for every student. To find out more about American Education Week, visit or contact your local public school.

“American Education Week serves as a tribute to the team of people who work with our students--everyone from the classroom teacher and the bus driver to the cafeteria worker and the administration staff—plus countless others,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “This week is a great time to say thank you to school employees who work in and out of the classroom.”

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

CONTACT: Celeste Busser  (202) 262-0589,