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Honoring Our Educational Support Professionals

American Education Week in 2019 is November 18 – 22. It is fitting that each year, in the week just before Thanksgiving week, we express our deep thanks to all who make great public education possible. Learn more here about the history of this special week, in which we celebrate our school systems and honor those who contribute so much to them.

Our public schools succeed through the combined efforts of many dedicated people, who fill numerous important roles. A big part of this celebratory week is Educational Support Professionals Day on Wednesday, November 20th. On this day we thank all the hardworking professionals who keep our schools running, and our students healthy, safe, and supported in the course of their school day.

Those invaluable service providers include custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, paraprofessionals, school secretaries, security guards, playground safety supervisors, building maintenance people, school nurses, and computer tech support.

In 1987, the National Education Association (NEA) first called for a special day to salute school support employees, initially identified as “Education Support Personnel.” In 2002, the National Council of Education Support Professionals (NCESP) successfully campaigned to change the name to “Education Support Professionals.” This shift reflected a growing pride in their contributions to helping students learn in positive, supportive environments.

The NEA represents three million support professionals. They are critical members of their public schools––in fact, they make up one-third of the entire education workforce. 75% of Education Support Professionals live in the communities where they work, and they bring a wealth of knowledge about those communities.

To help teachers, parents, and students acknowledge this special day, the NEA put together this Guide to Celebrating National Education Support Professionals Day. It says,“It is a time to strengthen support and show respect for ESPs, who are equal and essential partners in public education.”

The guide suggests activities, creative media communications ideas, and delightful ways to show appreciation such as movie tickets, gift certificates for relaxing spa treatments, and of course delicious shared foods. “All year long, education support professionals keep schools running efficiently and effectively. Now it is time to say ‘thank you’ for all their hard work, long hours, and dedication.”

For designed thank you cards and signs you can print out, try this “Celebration Toolkit”: Who in your school would you like to recognize and give a shout out to? On November 20th, educators and students across the nation will shower appreciation for their support professionals in so many thoughtful ways. These beloved individuals make a tremendous difference in the lives of their students, both in and out of the classroom. In addition to providing expert service, many ESPs even go above and beyond their official call of duty.

At Buena Vista High School in Ventura, CA the kids once celebrated their security guards, Carol and Liz, with an appreciation surprise party. The entire student body was in on it. The day started with their favorite treats from Starbucks, and went on from there. Liz said, “I feel that all the kids in school are precious. So, if they have problems with anything, they can come to us, and they’re safe to come to us.” Carol said, “Everybody has a story, all these kids, everybody has something. I just want them to feel loved.”

Enjoy this wonderful very short animation video all about honoring ESPs, told from the point of view of a middle school student:

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