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Education Secretary, NEA President Salute Education Support Professionals

To celebrate Education Support Professionals Day, November 18, 2009,  U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and NEA President Dennis Van Roekel rolled up their sleeves and donned chef's hats to serve lunch to hundreds of students at Alexandria, Virginia's John Adams Elementary School. The event was part of the 88th celebration of NEA's American Education Week.

Duncan and Van Roekel took on the new jobs to pay tribute to America's nearly 3 million education support professionals, more commmonly known as ESPs, who comprise 43 percent of the school workforce. There are nine types of ESPs, who work behind the scenes for the nation's public schools. From bus drivers, to classroom aides, to the people who feed our children, ESPs keep schools clean and safe and our children healthy and happy.

Prior to the lunch service, ESPs were recognized and honored during a ceremony, which was opened by Principal Mary Gibson and emceed by Van Roekel. Dr. Kitty Boitnott, president of the Virginia Education Association, Dr. Morton Sherman, superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools, NEA Executive Committee member Paula Monroe and NEA's ESP of the Year, Kathie Axtell, also participated.

"Education support professionals are the glue to our schools," said Axtell.

The highlight of the ceremony were the thank-you cards written by students and dedicated to ESPs like Bonnie Jones, a library assistant in the school's media center. Diana, a fourth-grader, said that without Jones, there would be books everywhere! She continued, "I know how hard you work, and you're that kind of person who is a great, funny, sweet person."

Another student, Barnabas, thanked building engineer Gary King for always putting away the tables and fixing lights. The audience roared with laughter when Barnabas said, matter-of-factly," Plus, you are the strongest person in the school."

Boitnott closed the ceremony by presenting the school's ESPs with an appreciation plaque that was accepted by Mary Gaddis, a paraprofessional who later joined Duncan and Van Roekel on the lunch line.


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