By Sharry Sparks
If you enjoy your career as an ESP, celebrate what you do for students, or embrace the value of ESP in the school community, you’ll be interested in learning more about the National ESP Conference. The Conference is a national event that seeks to improve your leadership skills, enhance your professional development and enlighten you about ESP issues across the nation.
This year’s conference was held in New Orleans and the theme was ESP: MEETING THE NEEDS OF THE WHOLE CHILD. The ESP Quality Department showcased the new ESP Digibook, a document that is the result of the partnership between NEA and ASCD Learn.Teach. Lead.
The ESP Digibook consists of dozens of interviews and stories about how ESP plays an important and vital role in the support, education and nurturing of students in public schools across the United States. The NEA ESP Digibook can be found on the NEA-New Hampshire website, and on the NEA ESP website. The Digibook makes for interesting reading as well as celebrates how much ESP contribute to public education each and every day.
This year, NEA-New Hampshire was represented by five attendees at the national conference including Rachel Hawkinson – UniServ Director Monadnock, and our New Hampshire ESP of the Year, Yvonne Borghetti. Yvonne was nominated by her peers for the NEA- NH Jo Campbell ESP Award because of her dedication and diligence in championing ESP and devotion to her students. This award is given yearly by NEA-NH in memory of Jo Campbell, a UniServ Director who recognized the struggles of, and championed ESP in public education. When Yvonne received the award she became eligible to be entered by our state to compete at the national level for National ESP of the Year.
Yvonne is an employee at Dr. Lewis F. Soule Elementary School where she enjoys her job as a library assistant and is President of the Salem Educational Support Personnel Association. She demonstrated her devotion to her students and their learning by securing a renewable grant for $500 that has put over two hundred book titles on the shelves of the school library. She also wrote a grant to develop an after-school program for students to explore and learn about live theatre. She is a member of her school’s Children in Crisis team (CHIC), Chairperson of the Scholastic Book Fair, as well as Chairperson for the Scholarship committee that has given $1500 in student scholarships this year.
Yvonne has also been grievance chair and chief negotiator of her local association. She successfully negotiated additional pay for paraeducator II paras, reduction in force language, improved health insurance coverage and successfully stopped the reduction in hours by the district that would end retirement and cut benefits for paraprofessionals.
With all those wonderful accomplishments, it’s no surprise that Yvonne was able to attract ten new members to her association this year. Yvonne is truly a champion to her profession and a credit to support staff, her school district and students.
Our emerging and advanced leaders attending the conference this year were Carol Scopa and Kathy Martin from Merrimack ESSA. Their district honored them with a luncheon and took up a collection to assist with unexpected travel expenses.
After attending her first conference this year Carol was excited to share her thoughts, “My trip to the NEA-ESP Conference was an experience of a lifetime. Not only did I learn strategies for my association in gaining respect for ESPs, building community support, addressing student needs, and receiving great professional development, but I also met ESP from around the United States. I learned so much in talking with others about how their locals and districts work. I brought back so much knowledge to share with my local and my region. Thank you NEA for this opportunity.”
The conference was also attended by Jill Owens, President of Hampstead Association of School Staff and an Executive Board member from the Southern Region, Brenda Hobbs, President of Pelham Education Support Personnel Association and longtime member of the NEA-NH Conference and Awards Committee and Sharry Sparks, ESP Executive Board member and Alternate NEA Director.
This annual event provides great professional development opportunities for leadership development and networking with fellow ESP across the country. We often find that ESP have the similar issues regarding working conditions, compensation, respect and responsibilities no matter what their zip code is.
Next year’s conference will be held March 11-13, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.