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Celebrate What You Do, ESPs Urged

"What would happen in our schools if none of you showed up for work?" Pam Bell asked in her keynote speech at VEA's Education Support Professionals Conference in Richmond this weekend.

The answer, according to Bell, a longtime educator now serving as Director of Family & Community Engagement for Henrico County Public Schools, is not pretty. In her presentation, entitled "Who You Are Makes a Difference," she got the conference off to a high-energy and humorous start, saying that our children would bear the brunt of missing ESPs, having to do without the hundreds of "little things we take for granted every day."

She recounted memories of the impact made in her own life by a school bus driver, a custodian, a front office secretary, and a school counselor, challenging event attendees to spell out "why you do what you do."

The conference was two days of inspiration and information for ESP members from across Virginia, offering breakout sessions on topics including leadership development, lifelong learning, social justice, money management, and member benefits, along with numerous networking opportunities.

"We need these conferences to be reinforced and stay current, and VEA conferences always do that for me," says Diane Outlaw, a media assistant and member of the Education Association of Norfolk. Octavia Harris, a school secretary and Arlington Education Association member, agrees. "There's so much information and every time I come it gets better," she says. "We learned something about all aspects of being an ESP and it's great to be with all the people. As ESPs, we really do a lot and are capable of a lot."

Additional speakers at the conference included VEA President Jim Livingston, VEA Vice President James Fedderman, and the Association's ESP of the Year, Theresia Rollins Anderson of the Fairfax Education Association.

Fedderman closed the conference, telling attendees he began his career as a school custodian and urging them to never give up on themselves or their students: "Our schools wouldn't work without you."

To see photos of conference activities, visit VEA's photo page here.


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