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Member & Activist Spotlight

Anastasia Jimenez: Creating Ripples

Anastasia Jimenez is a Grant Program Technician in Phoenix, Arizona
Anastasia Jimenez
Published: May 9, 2022

In the same way that one pebble tossed into a pond can create so many spreading ripples, I have come to see how one voice can have an effect in education. And I’ve been lucky enough to be able to help create change in two communities I care deeply about.

As a young person relatively new to education, I’ve been granted the opportunity to help elevate educational support professionals in the Phoenix Union High School District. We’ve gained training, more adequate pay, and empowerment through our union. At the same time, through my campus work as an ESP, I’ve also been able to provide students and families in my community with the support, resources, and opportunities they need.

When I was first invited to attend a meeting for the Phoenix Union Classified Employees Association (PUCEA), which represents our ESPs, I felt obligated to attend as a new employee – but I left committed to the work of the association and, in turn, NEA.

It soon became clear to me how often ESPs – the staff members who work with our students most and know their needs best – too often did not have a voice when it came to key decisions about their work and our schools. From a bell schedule that could dramatically affect their job functions, to work requirements, hours, pay, or the ability to get professional development. ESPs were not at the table.

After my first year with the district, I became a site representative for the union and, at first, assisted members with problems that arose for them individually. In the four following years I’ve been able to help push through significant wage increases for all ESPs in our district, including our part-time employees, with an addition of two working days to their contracts. We’ve also made professional development possible with the hiring of a full-time ESP who is curating programing for ESPs district wide. The work is ongoing as the structure takes shape for our nine job families and 25 schools.

I’ve also worked closely with NEA, which continues to provide support whenever needed. Most recently, PUCEA was awarded grant monies to fund a micro-credential offering in cultural competence. It was in alignment with a key goal of mine – to provide additional educational opportunities for our ESPs. Additionally, I envision a workplace where ESPs can advance, and where their respected trainings and licensures are honored and imbedded in their employment.

With the support from my local, and statewide ESPs, I now serve on the board of directors for the Arizona Education Association and as an elected officer with PUCEA.

When I entered the workforce, I knew that I wanted to make a difference, but I didn’t realize just how much of a difference I could make. This pathway into public education has given me lessons and opportunities to showcase the valuable work ESPs do every single day.

The work has been challenging, but I’m very grateful because of the lived experiences and the work of ESPs has been so incredibly rewarding. I am finding that I’m not the only one who can create ripples.

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.