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Washington Paraeducator Challenges NEA Delegates

ESP of the Year promises to be a champion for colleagues

San Diego - July 04, 2009 -

Delegates to the National Education Association Annual Meeting in San Diego, Calif., received a challenge today from the Education Support Professional of the Year, Kathie Axtell. Axtell, a para-educator since 1980, works with special needs students in Olympia, Wash., assisting them with day-to-day assignments and providing professional development to her colleagues.

Addressing the more than 10,000 NEA delegates, Axtell said, "It has been very important to me in my association work to help ESP’s realize they can create their own futures. I share my experiences with association members and school colleagues with the hope that what we create not only affects the lives of our students, but also the lives of members of our ESP community.”

As part of the ESP of the Year Award, Axtell received a monetary grant for use at her discretion. Rather than keep the money, Axtell has chosen to donate the money to TOGETHER!, a nonprofit organization that provides programs to keep students from drugs and violence. TOGETHER! works hand-in-hand with many city organizations, as well as the police to educate local  communities, parents and students. 

"Kathie works hard and has been willing to assist in whatever ways will help the District, even when outside of her regular responsibilities,” said Bill Lahmann, Olympia School District superintendent.  "She represents us well in every regard. Kathie is an outstanding staff member, who demonstrates personal, social and leadership skills.”

Axtell said she was humbled to be chosen as ESP of the Year.  "I am dedicated to representing our ESP members across the country, and I'm looking forward to meeting so many of my union brothers and sisters as the year unfolds,” she told NEA delegates.

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

CONTACT:  Michelle Hudgins  (202) 822-7823,