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Press Release

Washington’s Pamella Johnson Recognized as 2023 NEA ESP of the Year

Pringle: We want to uplift professionals, like Pamella, who are dedicated advocates for the needs of students
Published: March 27, 2023

WASHINGTON- NEA has named Pamella Johnson, a social-emotional and behavioral interventionist at Rochester High School in Rochester, Washington, the 2023 NEA Education Support Professional (ESP) of the Year. 

In her school role as a behavioral interventionist, Johnson uses her skills and expertise to ensure her students’ emotional, social, and academic needs are met. Additionally, Johnson has used her platform at her high school and as a member of the Association to tirelessly fight for equity-based practices in public education. 

"NEA has chosen to honor Pamella because of her extraordinary work and compassionate care for her students," said NEA President Becky Pringle. "She is relentless in her commitment to ensuring students' emotional needs are being met, something that is critically important, yet often overlooked in education systems. Particularly now, in a national mental health crisis, we want to uplift education professionals, like Pamella, who are dedicated advocates for the needs of students and the community.” 

Johnson received the award at a ceremony Saturday night in Seattle during the 2023 NEA ESP National Conference, the largest convening of education support professionals from across the country. As NEA’s ESP of the Year, Johnson will serve as an ambassador for ESPs across the country, speaking about the work and importance of ESPs at local, state, and national events. 

The NEA ESP of the Year award is designed to spotlight the work of ESPs across the country and honor one member who has demonstrated extraordinary achievements and dedication to public education. ESPs are the bus drivers who get our students to school safely. They are the custodians who keep our school buildings and grounds clean, the cafeteria workers who ensure our school communities are fed, the paraeducators who meet the needs of our most vulnerable students, and so much more. They are essential members of the educational team who work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs.

“Pam is truly amazing,” said Washington Education Association President Larry Delaney. “From her day job as an ESP at Rochester High School, to being a track and field coach, to running for school board in her home district of North Thurston, to serving on the WEA Board, as the chair of the Washington State Paraeducators Board, and serving on the NEA Board, Pam is the living embodiment of a servant-leader.” 

Johnson is also a leader throughout Washington. She serves as Washington’s ESP lead for Culturally Responsive Teaching and Classroom Management Courses; as Board Member and Treasurer for Washington State Ethnic Studies Now; and on the School to Prison Pipeline committee with the League of Education Voters. 

“I genuinely believe in the importance of representation for students of color and neurodiverse students to the overall improvement of our public education,” Johnson said when she received the Washington ESP of the Year award. “A student's experience is so much more than tests and what they do inside the classroom, they deserve to be seen and supported as whole people---this includes their mental health and overall wellbeing. I do what I do because I love what I do, and it is an enormous honor that my work is being recognized with this award.”  

For more information on the NEA ESP of the Year Award program, including a complete list of the 2023 NEA ESP of the Year nominees, visit

Follow us @NEAMedia and @NEArESPect  

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ESPs are categorized into nine career families: paraeducators; clerical services; custodial services; skilled trades; technical services; security services; transportation services; food services; and health and student services. Learn more at

The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, students preparing to become teachers, healthcare workers, and public employees. Learn more at




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National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.