Kimberly Scott-Hayden, the 2021 National Education Support Professional (ESP) of the Year, told delegates to the virtual 100th Representative Assembly on July 1 that together, they can build a better world for students.
“Together, we continue to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice,” said the inventory control clerk and president of the East Orange Maintenance Association in East Orange, New Jersey. “As a union activist, I’ve learned that none of us can do much to change the world alone. But when we work collectively, remain aware of our purpose, and walk with intentionality, we can build a better world for the students we love.”
Equity and Justice
As the chair of the New Jersey Education Association’s Human and Civil Rights Committee, and a leader in the statewide Equity Alliance -- an umbrella organization of NJEA’s committees dedicated to minority leadership and recruitment, sexual orientation and gender identity, exceptional children, urban education, women in education, and human and civil rights – she’s had the privilege of helping to harness the power of our 200,000 members to bend the arc toward justice.
Scott-Hayden is also part of the NJEA Amistad Stakeholder Group—a coalition of educators, parents, school and district administrators, education advocates and the New Jersey Department of Education, which seeks to ensure that the state’s “Amistad mandate” is fully implemented. Named after the storied slave ship, the 2018 mandate requires educators to teach the history of Africans and African Americans in the U.S. and their role in building this nation.
“We are professionals in a helping profession, so I never second guess helping anyone—for me it is natural,” Scott-Hayden told the delegates.
ESPs are Valuable Educators
As an ESP, she said she has learned how valuable she is to her school community.
“That is why I never let anyone make me or my colleagues feel like ‘just’ a custodian, ‘just’ a secretary or ‘just’ an inventory control clerk,” she said. “These aren’t ‘just’ jobs we do; they are our careers.”
The bottom line, she emphasized, is that “we are all educators.”
Professional Development for All ESPs
That is why Scott-Hayden’s local—East Orange Maintenance Association—has worked with their district’s administration to lead ESP professional development. All 400 ESPs in her district have had access to professional development on topics that are relevant to their work—from cultural competency and communication to trauma-informed practices.
“We’ve been using the NEA ESP Professional Growth Continuum to highlight standards and areas where members have said they needed more support,” she told delegates. “With professional development that spark has been lit from within, and my members are empowered. They’re diving deeper, learning more, working independently and asking how to get more training.”
“We must—and we should—play a significant part in the educational process for our students and ourselves,” she added.
ESPs are “Essential” Support Professionals
As ESP of the Year, Scott-Hayden said she will help show how ESPs are Education Support Professionals are Essential Support Professionals.
“Whether or not, we come into direct contact with students, we are part of the public education system that helps to build their success,” she said. “I hope that my labor of love for my students and public education has touched you and inspired your heart to believe that every ESP is an Essential Support Professional and is valuable.”
As ESP of the Year, Scott-Hayden said she strives every day to represent ESPs and help them continue to do incredible things to ensure the best public schools across the nation, for every student regardless of race or zip code.
“Together we will do this, NEA,” she said. “And together we continue to be the powerful beacon of light that guides every student to their dreams.”