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Teachers Union Lauds Education Support Professionals for Behind-The-Scenes Efforts

Whittney Evans
Education Support Professional of the year Paula Monroe.

Officials with the nation’s largest teacher’s union are in Utah celebrating the work of school cafeteria workers, secretaries, bus drivers and other Education Support Professionals.

As secretary to the principal at an elementary school in Redlands, California Paula Monroe had seen one particular student in her office too many times.  Monroe knew the student well, and knew that his older brother was involved in gangs. The young man confided in her that he had felt so threatened by kids at school that he was carrying a loaded 9 millimeter gun in his pocket. Monroe says her interest in the student may have prevented a tragedy that day.

“Students couldn’t function if we didn’t deliver them to school safely, if they weren’t fed, if they weren’t able to check out library books, if we didn’t have a nurse to take care of them,” Monroe says. “We connect with the students as much as the teachers do.”

The National Education Association named Monroe the National Support Professional of the year for her 27 years of service.

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia began her career as a cafeteria worker in Utah.

“For teachers, we know we couldn’t do our jobs without the support staff and we’re not always sure the rest of the world gets that, including the people that fund public schools,” Garcia says.  

Garcia hopes policy makers will eventually put more resources toward support staff and less on testing.

Wednesday’s event was part of American Education Week. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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