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Milwaukee School Employee Chosen for Top NEA Honor

Believes there is no action unless you take action

WASHINGTON - July 05, 2008 -

The winner of the 2008 Education Support Professional of the Year award honored educators and encouraged partnerships with individuals and organizations to invest in public schools during her inspirational address to the National Education Association's annual Representative Assembly.   Milwaukee public schools employee Laura Vernon spoke before nearly 10,000 delegates gathered in Washington, D.C., to shape education priorities for the Association.

Education support professionals account for about 40 percent of educators working in public schools and 483,000 of NEA's over 3.2 million members. They include school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, school nurses and safety assistants-like Vernon-who help keep public schools in Milwaukee safe.

"Education is freedom for our children. Freedom to become anybody they want to be. We give our children hope," Vernon said. "Our children matter, they deserve to be nurtured in the freedom of the education process, and it must be funded properly."

Vernon delivered a poem entitled "When Did We Become the Enemy," which had the Assembly up on its feet cheering. "Have they dismissed the history of this nation? Education is rooted in its very foundation," Vernon said. "Have they not noticed that we with pleasure … nurture and mold our future's treasure? Have they forgotten, because of our dedication, they received an education? When did we become the enemy?"

NEA President Reg Weaver presented the award to Vernon at the annual ESP Conference in Baltimore, Md., last March.

"When you understand Laura's accomplishments, you get a better sense of how integral ESPs are to children receiving a quality education," said Weaver. "Her contributions to the children of Milwaukee Public Schools have benefits that extend beyond the classroom."

Vernon is a 33-year employee of Milwaukee Public Schools in the Division of School Safety, and a member of NEA's Board of Directors.

"The teaching staff she works with knows that she is dedicated, wise and fair," said Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. "They rely on her work and guidance daily."

Photos of the event and a transcript of the speech are available by e-mail

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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: Samantha Kappalman (202) 822-7823