(Scroll down for details on how to nominate for 2021)

Our 2020 ESP of the Year is Cheryl Hanley!

Cheryl Hanley, a speech language assistant who serves as president of the Blue Mountain Education Association, is the 2020 Vermont-NEA Education Support Professional of the Year.

“I love my job because I love working with people,” Hanley said. “I enjoy the children and the creativity I am able to apply to teaching them speech and language skills. Now that I have found my voice I also love the confidence that it has allowed me to have for myself and for when I am advocating for others.”

Hanley, who was the runner-up ESP of the Year last year, credits her union activity with making her a stronger educator and more effective advocate. “I think I have elevated our profession by stressing that we have a viewpoint that is important and should be valued when looking at the whole child.”

Hanley was chosen by a committee of fellow Vermont-NEA members. She will receive a check for $1,000 and will represent Vermont in the annual National Education Association ESP of the Year competition.

“We are proud of Cheryl,” said Vermont-NEA President Don Tinney. “She exemplifies the caring and dedicated educator who puts students and her colleagues first every day.”

Hanley’s colleague Tracy Emerson nominated her for the honor. “Cheryl is driven, hard working, team oriented, and always will rise to a challenge,” Emerson wrote. “Not only is Cheryl incredible when working with students, but she is a critical part of the school.”

Among her many roles are school wellness champion, EST advocate, MTSS data analyst, and, since stepping into the role unexpectedly earlier this year, president of her local. She previously served as secretary and vice president of the Blue Mountain EA.

When she’s not in school, Hanley volunteers in the community. A mother of a three-year-old and an eight-year-old, Hanley volunteers in their classrooms, often providing supplies and homemade baked goods. “I try to be engaged in the community where I live and where I work,” she said. “I find value in working with others as part of a team.”

Our 2020 ESP of the Year Runner-Up is Laura Walker-Sewell

This year’s ESP of the Year runner-up is Laura Walker-Sewell of the Essex Westford Education Association. As a member of the Vermont-NEA Board of Directors, Walker-Sewell is no stranger to union activism. But she is also known for her dedication to students and her fellow educators. “We refer to ESPs as ‘Essential Support Professionals’ because they are,” she said. “ESPs are a large and diverse group who perform many varied jobs, and all are essential in the smooth day-to-day operations of any district.”

Walker-Sewell also has a tasty “side-hustle,” as she calls it: Comfort Cookies. “My husband and I for the last 12 years have been donating our cookies to various charities but mainly to active duty military members in far off places,” she said. “We feel it is the very least we can do to bring a little bit of home closer to someone very far away.”


Nominate a local ESP member for the 2021 Vermont-NEA ESP Award!

In recognition of the important role of Education Support Professionals within the Association, and to honor their outstanding contributions to communities and children, Vermont-NEA presents an annual Education Support Professionals Award.

The 1992 Vermont-NEA Representative Assembly established the annual Education Support Professional Award to recognize the importance of ESP.

Who Can Be Nominated

The person being nominated must have been a Vermont-NEA member for at least three years (including this year). Exceptions will be made if the Local Association is less than three years old. We encourage nominations from any ESP career family: Clerical Services, Custodial and Maintenance Services, Food Services, Health and Student Services, Paraeducators, Security Services, Skilled Trades, Technical Services, or Transportation Services.  

How to Nominate

The strongest nominees are members who are highly involved in their local Association and/or volunteer for Vermont-NEA or NEA in some capacity. Examples of involvement include, but are not limited to, holding elected local union leadership role(s), being involved in organizing colleagues to legally form the union, assisting fellow members in organizing to improve the workplace or advocating for employee rights. In general, the committee favors nominees who enhance the image of ESPs in the school, union and community.  Nominees also should be good employees with a strong professional record, make a continued positive impact on the school and students, and ideally, are involved in their local community.

Nominations will be accepted by submitting a simple web form. All we need is some basic information about your nominee. Nominations will be received on a rolling basis up until the end of the school yearWe will be in touch with nominees and their nominators to collect further information.

To submit a nomination online click here.

Deadline for Nominations 

Nominations will be received on a rolling basis through the end of the school year.  All nominations must be submitted online.  If you have any questions, please contact Erin Green at [email protected] or 802-224-2411.

Selection of the Winner

Nominations will be reviewed by the Vermont-NEA ESP Leadership Advisory Committee, which will make a recommendation to the Vermont-NEA Board of Directors. The Vermont-NEA Board will select the winner.

The winner will be presented a $1,000 award, will automatically become Vermont-NEA's nominee for the National Education Association ESP Award, and will receive an all expense paid trip to the NEA ESP Conference to represent Vermont as part of a team of ESPs.    

Award Presentation

The Vermont-NEA ESP Award will be presented at the annual Vermont-NEA Representative Assembly.  


Previous Winners, Vermont-NEA ESP Award

Cheryl Hanley, Blue Mountain EA, 2020

Pat Thompson, Maple Run EA, 2019

Joan Savaglio, Green Mountain-NEA, 2018

Loretta Johnson, Rutland Northeast Education Association-Paraeducators and Bus Drivers Unit, 2017 

Fran Brennan, Chittenden South Education Association, 2016

Chris Halpin, Essex Jct. Westford Education Association, 2015

Christie Thereault, Windham Southeast Education Association, 2014

Tara Gauding, South Burlington Education Association, 2013

Hannah Van Loon, Windham Southeast Education Association, 2012

Darcey Fletcher, Lamoille Union High School EA, 2011

Donna Constant, Paraeducator, Washington West EA 2010

Jan Thibeault, Paraeducator, Essex North EA 2009

Rebecca Auger, Paraeducator, Woodstock Union HS SSO, 2008

Laurel Tobiason, Paraeducator, Twinfield SSA 2007

Linda Howard, Paraeducator, Twinfield SSA 2006

Regina Sears, Paraeducator, Rutland School EA 2005

Betsy Howard, Paraeducator, Woodstock Union HS SSO 2004

Beverly Klandl, Class Assistant, Chittenden South EA 2003

Carolyn Godbout, Paraeducator, Rutland School SA 2002

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