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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 15, 2017 -

Schools across the country are joining the National Education Association and its nearly 3 million members today in celebrating National Education Support Professionals (ESP) 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 are critical members of the education workforce and ensure student success from pre-school through college,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. “They have a wealth of knowledge, experience and passion and play critical roles in the school community.”

ESPs include paraeducators—such as instructional and non-instructional assistants, teachers’ aides, crossing guards, and preschool caregivers—clerical staff, custodians, tradespeople and technical staff. They also include school security officers, food service workers, maintenance and transportation staff, and those who work in health and student services. These professionals 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.

This year National Education Association Secretary-Treasurer Princess Moss, along with NEA ESP of the Year Saul Ramos and Arizona state and local leaders, recognized Phoenix Union District’s education support professionals as a part of NEA’s 96th annual celebration of American Education Week. This year’s campaign emphasizes that our nation’s public schools are here for each and every student —no matter the circumstance, everyone is welcome and all deserve the support, tools, and time to learn.

As part of this year’s ESP Day NEA also teamed up with the “DUDE. Be nice” Project ( to pull off a series of surprises for Port Towns Elementary School students in PG County, Maryland. (You can watch the video here.)

“Education support professionals should be recognized today, and on every single day of the year,” said 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.”

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

National Education Support Professionals Day is an important part of NEA’s American Education Week celebration, taking place November 13-17. 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.

This year’s campaign emphasizes that our nation’s public schools are here for each and every student —no matter the circumstance, everyone is welcome and all deserve the support, tools, and time to learn.

To join the campaign “Public Schools For All,” NEA is asking people to snap a photo that represents their pride in public schools and post it to their social media channels using #PublicSchoolsForAll

“Public schools are the cornerstone of our communities. We welcome students of all backgrounds, abilities and incomes, and each of us plays a role in ensuring our schools are open to all,” said Eskelsen García. “During American Education Week, it’s time for us to show our public school pride to the world.”

American Education Week honors students’ determination to learn; recognizes the professionalism and dedication of teachers, support staff, and other educators; thanks parents and members of the community who help students succeed; and rededicates the community at large to quality public education for every student.

“Together, we’ll show what makes our public schools some of the best in the world: all of us, each of us,” added Eskelsen García.

For more information on education support professionals, visit:   

To find out more about American Education Week, visit or contact your local public school.

Follow the conversation at #AEW2017

Show your pride in your public school #PublicSchoolsForAll

To learn more about Dude. Be nice, see past videos of projects, or plan a project in your area, visit 

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

CONTACT: Celeste F. Busser
Senior Press Officer
National Education Association
1201 16th St. NW
Washington, DC 20036