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Olympia special education educator wins national award

29-Year paraeducator veteran wins NEA’s ESP of the Year Award

OLYMPIA, Wash - March 16, 2009 -

Afterschool program creator, special education trainer and union activist Kathie Axtell earned the National Education Association’s (NEA) ESP of the Year Award Friday night.  Since 1980, she has worked with students who struggled with day-to-day assignments and trained others to help these students who need it the most.

“Kathie is an extraordinary leader.  She’s kind, articulate and courageous, and at the same time, a ferocious advocate.  She never shies away from doing what is right for the students in our classrooms or for our members,” said Washington Education Association (WEA) President Mary Lindquist.  “She has a moral compass that keeps our organization headed in the right direction.  She is the type of leader that attracts strong people into our Association, and they rely on her to mentor and guide them.” 

In addition to her work as a paraeducator, Axtell received a grant from WEA to create an afterschool program for Title I students. 

 TOGETHER! is a nonprofit organization that provides programs to keep students from drugs and violence.  Partners in the community for this afterschool program include community organizations, police and students.

“Kathie has the highest possible regard from everyone who knows her—students, staff, faculty and all those with whom she has worked,” said Bill Lahmann, Olympia School District superintendent.  “Kathie is able to multitask, and does so with skill.  I am proud to know her and proud of her many accomplishments for our district.”

Axtell’s motto is a quote by writer Peter Drucker.  “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” And for 29 years, Axtell has been working to convince both students and colleagues that they can indeed change their futures.

“I am stunned, honored and humbled to be chosen as ESP of the year,” Axtell said.  “I am dedicated to representing our ESP members across the country, and I’m looking forward to meeting so many of my union brothers and sisters as the year unfolds.”

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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: Samantha Kappalman
(202) 822-7823,