Wyoming Education Association

Spring 22

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is in the right place at the right time to hear a message that they really need. I have been lucky in my career as an ESP to have that happen a couple of times. One of those times was when I heard Lisa Herold, the Southwest Region UniServ Director, speak about being proud of our accomplishments and sharing them with others. I'm thrilled to share with you t hat I heard Lisa's presentation, went home and made my list of accomplishments and work I'm proud of, and as a result, things changed for the better for me—and hopefully for ESPs around the state. Of course, things didn't change immediately. But Lisa's presentation made me reflect and drove home some important truths about the work we do as ESPs. Lisa's message was simple but powerful: our work as Educati on Support Professionals is important, sometimes even life-changing for our students. We need to be proud of the work we do, and we need to share that pride with others. ESPs are amazing people. On a daily basis, we make sure that students are cared for and that they have what they need to be successful. We help certified staff in the classroom and office. We coach sports after school, lead student council groups, coach speech, help organize toy drives, and so much more. All of these things are necessary for students to feel as though they are a part of their school community. ESPs are a humble group. We keep our heads down and get the job done. I admire that, but what I've realized is that we are not helping ourselves. ESPs around the state and around the country are not appreciated the way we should be, a nd we are most definitely not compensated for all that we do. You may say that you do the work you do because you love the students you work with and that seeing them smile and advance is your reward. I agree that the children we work with are amazing, and seeing them make gains and show up to our busses and buildings is what makes us happy. But how many ESPs are working a second or third job to make ends meet? How many of us are away from our families for long hours because we are grading tests, or we are cleaning up buildings with a skeleton crew because our districts can't hire or retain enough peer s to regulate our workloads into being manageable? When legislators and district leaders realize the important work we do and how vital we are to student success and the smooth operation of districts, things may begin to change for all ESPs. That won't happen if we all don't speak up. I am encouraging you to do a few things that will improve the lives of all ESPs. Encourage others to join WEA. Our voices a re stronger together. It is hard for district leaders to ignore a large group of people with a unified message backed by one of the most influential organizations in the state. Start to get involved with your local associations. If there are open positions in your local, consider running for one. It can be intimidating to step into leadership roles, but it is so important. Make a list of all you do for stu dents you work with and extra things you do at your work site. When it is time to prepare for negotiations for benefits and pay, make sure you and other ESPs share that list with your negotiations team. Follow what is happening at the legislative sessions. WEA Government Relations Director Tate Mullen does a great job of keeping people informed. Speak up about bills that will not benefit our students and ESPs. Thank you for the work you do and for the difference you make in students' lives. Go out and share what you do with pride! Take Care, Sometimes a person Your influence and impact on students is invaluable! jcatfitz@msn.com (307) 286-4503 Christine Fitzgerald ESP Representative to the WEA Board of Directors 23

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