It’s common knowledge amongst educators that professional development for education support professionals (ESPs) is largely non-existent or irrelevant, if offered at all. Whether five or 20 years on the job, ESPs receive limited access to career learning opportunities unless they provide it themselves.
“Everyone thinks professional development is for teachers only,” says Matthew Powell, custodial supervisor at Central Elementary School in Mayfield, Ky. “But ESPs also need the opportunity to learn and grow in their careers.”
After working for 12 years as a special education paraeducator, Powell returned to college to complete a bachelor’s degree in educational studies. To meet expenses during this time, he worked as a school custodian on the night shift.
As a member of NEA’s ESP Careers Committee, Powell is working alongside ESPs and teachers from across the country to increase professional learning opportunities for school support professionals. Already, the committee has led to the development of new universal standards that provide a pathway for professional growth for ESPs throughout their careers.