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Kentucky Custodial Supervisor Named Education Support Professional of the Year

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García: Matthew believes students should be at the center of every decision we make

WASHINGTON - March 25, 2019 -

Matthew Cory Powell, a custodial supervisor, special events bus driver and night watchman at Graves County Central Elementary School in Mayfield, Kentucky has been named the 2019 National Education Association’s Education Support Professional (ESP) of the Year. Powell received the honor on March 23rd at the NEA ESP Conference in Las Vegas.

For the past 11 years, Powell has served in various roles in public education. He started as a special education paraeducator in the school system that he attended as a student. After receiving his BA in Educational Studies he was hired as a custodial supervisor, responsible for the planning and management of the school’s custodial team, grounds keeping, maintenance and related safety and security activities. In addition to his work as a custodial supervisor, Powell is also the school’s night watchman and fills in as a bus driver when the district is in need of substitute drivers.

“NEA congratulates Matthew and thanks him for the dedication and passion he has for students and ESPs,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Matthew thinks in terms of possibilities rather than impossibilities, solutions rather than problems, do’s rather than don’ts. Most of all, he believes that students should be at the center of every decision we make in our schools.”

“Mentor, teacher, colleague, advocate and friend are only a few of the ways I would describe Matthew,” said Kentucky Education Association President Stephanie Winkler. “A true champion for public schools, Matthew is one of the most kind, tenacious and hard-working individuals I have ever met.”

“Public education is more than just a job. It is a career and a lifestyle that I love,” he said. “I make it a goal for students to want to come to school by promoting a healthy, fun and inviting student climate.”

Shanna Mills, parent and teacher, says Powell is “a wonderful example of a public school employee- someone who loves students.”

As a local, state and national ESP advocate, Powell was selected as the 2019 Kentucky ESP of the Year. He serves on the NEA board of directors, KEA board of directors, and numerous committees and taskforces. He was involved in the creation of the NEA ESP Professional Growth Continuum (PGC), which provides education support professionals with pathways for professional learning at every stage of their careers. Powell is one of Kentucky’s top political activists and spends time lobbying for education issues.  A passionate advocate for students and educators, he recently filed a lawsuit against a forced municipal city annexation, which would result in a loss of revenue for students and a loss of school support staff in his school district. The case will be heard by the Kentucky Supreme Court.

As 2019 ESP of the Year, Powell will represent NEA and education support professionals at national education conferences, media events and other community occasions. He also will deliver a speech this summer at the NEA Representative Assembly in Houston.

”There are so many outstanding ESPs out there. ESPs who make such a tremendous contribution to their schools and their communities,” added Eskelsen García. “This ESP of the Year is a winner among winners.”

More than 900 education support professionals and other educators attended NEA’s 28th annual three-day ESP Conference. The conference is the premier professional development gathering for education support professionals across the nation, providing hands-on workshops to foster career growth and opportunities to explore social justice, leadership development, and all issues related to the work ESPs do to keep students healthy, safe, engaged and challenged.

Education support professionals, who work in schools and on college campuses, are categorized into nine career families: paraeducators; clerical services; custodial services; skilled trades; technical services; security services; transportation services; food services; and health and student services.

The nation’s public schools employ more than 2 million school support staff, comprising one-third of all public school employees. More than 75 percent of education support professionals live, shop and vote in the communities in which they work. For more information on education support professionals, visit: Follow @NEArESPect on Twitter for the latest news.

Follow #ESP2019 on Twitter for updates on the 2019 ESP Conference

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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: Celeste Busser  (202) 822-7823,