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N.C. bus driver and teacher assistant named ‘ESP of the Year’

Education Support Professional Ernest D. Williams recognized by NEA

WASHINGTON - March 14, 2011 -

Ernest “Jameel” Williams, a bus driver and teacher assistant for Vance County Schools in Henderson, N.C., has received the National Education Association’s (NEA) 2011 Education Support Professional (ESP) the Year Award—the organization’s highest honor recognizing outstanding leadership in the school, community and education profession.

America’s nearly 3 million education support professionals—more commonly known as ESPs or school support staff—make up 43 percent of the public school workforce. ESPs comprise nine staff groups who work to support the nation’s public schools and higher education institutions. From food service workers to para-educators to bus drivers and custodians, ESPs are the foundation that keeps schools and colleges clean, safe and healthy.

“E. Jameel Williams is an outstanding leader, and he demonstrates the commitment that ESPs bring to help students succeed in school," said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.  "He also exemplifies the strong bridges that ESPs create between their schools and their community.”

A bus driver and teacher assistant from Henderson, N.C., Williams has taught at L.B. Yancey Elementary School for all 23 years of his education career. At Yancey, he has served as a teacher assistant with at-risk youth and in the art and music department. Aside from his work in the classroom, Williams, who has served as a local Association president, is a strong advocate for ESPs to become certified teachers. He has also served as the North Carolina ESP president and sits on several state and national boards of directors.

“Jameel believes every child has the right to learn,” said North Carolina Association of Educators President Sheri Strickland, in her nomination of Williams for the award. “He is a champion for the rights of ESPs and is committed to having his students believe in their full potential.”

The ESP of the Year award is one of the highlights of NEA’s annual ESP Conference, which is designed to provide professional development opportunities for participants to sharpen their leadership skills. As part of his honor, Williams receives a monetary award, a portion of which he plans to donate to the Celebrity of the Year Scholarship to help young people continue their education at a college or university of their choice.

For more information on ESPs and their role in America’s public schools, visit


The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee 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:  Anita Merina  (202) 822-7289,