Saturday, July 4, 2009

Meet the ESP of the Year!

Live life loud!

That’s Education Support Professional of the Year Kathie Axtell’s advice to her colleagues and it means standing up and putting a public face of the role of education support professionals. It means standing up and saying, “Every person who works in our schools deserves the dignity to live their lives above – above – the poverty level.”

Axtell, a paraprofessional from Washington State, was honored by the Representative Assembly today as “a visionary, a woman of action, one who is unafraid to take the road less traveled,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.

( Photo/ Scott Iskowitz/ RA TODAY)

Since 1980, Axtell has worked with students who struggle with day-to-day assignments and trained others to help these students as well. She’s been an active, energetic advocate for her ESP colleagues – and her kids too. Through a grant from Washington Education Association, with support from local police agencies, Axtell created an after-school program that provides anti-drug and violence prevention programs to her most needy students.

Now, as NEA’s national ESP of the Year, Axtell has accepted a new assignment: Convincing her colleagues that they need to become politically involved and raising awareness of the poor wages paid to far too many ESPs.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel,left with ESP of the year Kathleen Axtell, Paraeducator Olympia, Washington speaks during the 147th Annual Meeting at the RA Saturday. ( Photo/ Scott Iskowitz/ RA TODAY)

“It is so easy to bury our heads in our schools and work. It is so easy to let someone else worry about legislation and politics and elections,” Axtell said. But those legislative decisions impact the work of educators – and the lives of students.

“We all need to commit ourselves to engaging in political action – Republicans and Democrats, young and old, custodian and chemistry teacher.” Contact your legislators and ask for fair funding, she urged. At the same time, do your part to demand fair compensation for educators.

“I am not talking about buying a yacht – I am talking about the ability to live life with dignity and to have enough that we go to bed not worrying about whether we have enough money to keep food on the table or heat in our homes.”

More here (with video)

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