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Maryland Paraeducator Named NEA 2013 ESP of Year

Donna Schulze honored at ESP conference in Kentucky

WASHINGTON - March 11, 2013 -

NEA member and paraeducator Donna Schulze was named the 2013 National Education Support Professional of the Year. Schulze, a paraeducator at Phelps Luck Elementary School in Columbia, Md., received the prestigious award from NEA President Dennis Van Roekel at the annual NEA ESP conference.

America’s education support professionals—more commonly known as ESPs or school support staff—make up 43 percent of the public school workforce. ESPs comprise of nine staff groups who work to support the nation’s public schools and higher education institutions. From food service workers to paraeducators, to bus drivers and custodians, ESPs are the foundation that keeps schools and colleges clean, safe, and healthy. NEA represents more than 480,000 ESPs across the country.

“NEA applauds Donna and her commitment to helping students succeed in school,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “She is a true champion for the rights of ESPs, our public school’s unsung heroes. Donna embodies the qualities of our nation’s ESPs. She is a dedicated professional who serves her students; a willing and generous role model who makes a difference in kids’ lives inside and outside of school; and an advocate for public education.”

“I don’t know what to say,” said Schulze, a member of the Howard County Education Association (HCEA), one of the largest merged teacher-ESP locals in the nation. “You know, we’ve (ESPs) been fighting for so long, and we’ve come far. And we are still moving.”

Schulze has taken on a variety of Association duties since joining HCEA 15 years ago. She has served as a building representative, lobbyist, committee member (organizing, negotiations, membership, and social activities), and been a delegate to the NEA Representative Assembly. In particular, she was the lead member of the HCEA team, which worked for eight years to secure passage of legislation in 2007 giving HCEA the right to bargain agency fees for non-members.

“I really admire the dedication and passion Donna has for her students and her job,” said Betty Weller, Maryland State Education Association President. “We have so many great support professionals in Maryland and they do such a terrific job. We recognize our students get a better education because we are all working together on their behalf.”

Schulze was also instrumental in getting the Maryland State Teachers Association (MSTA) to change their name, which had existed for 140 years before “education” replaced “teachers” in 2009.

This year’s ESP conference theme was “ESP: It’s More Than a Job. It’s a Career!” The conference is designed to help ESPs gain the skills they need to organize stronger locals, build strong internal and external relationships, and enhance their ability to influence student achievement. The NEA Representative Assembly approved the ESP of the Year award in 1991. The first award was presented in 1992.

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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, and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Celeste Busser  (202) 822-7823,