NEA ESP of the Year, a fellow Coloradan, inspires educators nationwide

Judy Near, CEA-NEA member in Canon City ESPA, is representing Association members as the NEA Education Support Professional (ESP) of the Year. Near earned the honor last March and was recognized this week at the NEA annual meeting in Washington, DC.

In Near’s speech to nearly 9,000 fellow educators at the meeting, she urged them to take control of their profession by leading, telling them, “To lead, you just need a vision, hope, and the inner strength to believe you can change things.”

Near encouraged the annual meeting delegates to empower themselves and live each day with courage because courage helps protect students and their communities. “We care deeply for our students and their success, and we work to keep our students and schools safe,” said Near, a health technician and attendance clerk at Skyline Elementary School.

America’s nearly three million ESP are 43 percent of the public school workforce. They comprise nine staff services groups in both PreK-12 and higher education: custodial and maintenance; secretarial and clerical; transportation; food service; health; paraeducators (classroom assistants); security services; technical services; and skilled trades.

Job categories aside, we think of ESP members as the foundation of our schools and colleges, the people who work hard every day to keep schools healthy, clean, and safe and who work side-by-side with teachers and principals to help students achieve in school. Near knows from her work in Canon City schools over the last 27 years that ESP members get tremendous personal fulfillment from working with students and serving their school community.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel agrees, “Education support professionals are invaluable members of a school community, often the strongest bridges from classroom and campus to community. Their relationships with students are not limited to one school year; as students move from grade to grade, they remain part of their educational experience. ESP members’ commitment to helping students succeed is the hallmark of Association leadership and Judy Near is a wonderful example.”

We think Judy Near is a wonderful example too, and we are very proud of her ESP of the Year Award and her accomplishments as an educator.

Learn more about the demographics of Association ESP members and watch Judy Near’s speech at the NEA Annual Meeting on CEA’s home page.

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