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Education Support Staff Professional of the Year

ESSPOY winner Carla Whitsett

Education Support Staff Professional of the Year

Each school community has numerous dedicated professionals who spend their day supporting students and educators. As part of its ongoing commitment to highlighting and recognizing the contributions of individuals across the state who go above and beyond in our schools and districts, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) is proud to partner with AFSCME Council 25, the American Federation of Teachers-Michigan and the Michigan Education Association to offer this annual award. Awardees also became Michigan's nominees for the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award, coordinated by the United States Department of Education.

Thank you to all those who took time to nominate an outstanding support staff professional during the 2021 award cycle. Check back in 2022 for information about the next award.

2021 Award Winner

Carla Whitsett 2021 ESSPOY Winner

Carla Whitsett

Ypsilanti Community Schools

Whitsett is a paraeducator at the Achieving Career & College Education (A.C.E.E.) High School in Ypsilanti Community Schools, and has more than 20 years of experience in Ypsilanti and other area schools. Lauren Fardig-Diop, a teacher at A.C.C.E. who nominated Whitsett for the award, wrote in her nomination: "Carla grew up in the community, and her commitment to generations of young people in Ypsilanti is unmatched. She aims to love everyone who walks through our doors, to let them know that they are valued and cared for and deserve to be well-educated."

Whitsett learned of this honor in a surprise visit from Deputy State Superintendent Dr. Delsa Chapman on November 4, 2021. To learn more about Whitsett and the 2021 Education Support Staff Professional of the Year award, please check out the press release. 

2020 Award Winners

Owen Bondono photo

Dawn Hendges

Western School District

Hendges is a food and nutrition service worker at Parma Elementary School in the Western School District, where she has worked for 20 Years. Her district leaders explained that during this unprecedented time of the pandemic, Hendges has gone above and beyond for students, ensuring they have high-quality nutritious meals every day and promoting the location of food distribution centers in the district so no student went hungry. The students know their meals were made by a friendly and caring person every day.


Anthony Greenburg Photo

Holly Holm

Crawford-Oscoda-Ogemaw-Roscommon Intermediate School District

Holm is an administrative assistant with the COOR ISD in Roscommon, where she has worked for 17 years and has had a tremendous impact on students and her colleagues alike. District leaders say Holm is the rock of the ISD by treating students and staff with the utmost respect, and she is the center of the systems that keep the schools running seamlessly. Her co-workers describe her as being the ear to listen when it's been a rough day and the smile behind the reassurance to carry on with your day.

The press release announcing Hendges and Holm as the 2020 honorees can be found here.

2019 Winner

Russ Clark 2019 ESSPOY Winner

Russ Clark

Rockford Public Schools

Clark retired from General Motors after 32 years and took the suggestion of a friend to start driving school buses. He had worked as a bus driver for 8 years at the time of his selection as the 2019 Education Support Staff Professional of the Year. His duties include transporting primary and secondary special needs students, and he has loved it from the moment he started. 

Who is an Education Support Professional?

Education Support Professionals include, but are not limited to, individuals who work following positions/roles:

  • Paraprofessionals (All)
  • Teachers' Aides & Assistants
  • Program Aides & Assistants
  • Preschool Care Givers
  • Before/After School Care Givers
  • Bus Monitors & Aides
  • Lunchroom & Playground Monitors
  • Noon Supervisors
  • Cafeteria Workers
  • Line Cooks
  • Food Preparation Workers
  • Food Service Workers
  • Cashiers
  • Health Aides
  • Crossing Guards
  • Mechanics
  • Bus Drivers
  • Transportation Workers
  • Garage Workers
  • Receptionists
  • Secretaries
  • Administrative Assistants
  • Office Workers & Assistants
  • Bookkeepers
  • Payroll Clerks
  • Accounting & Financial Assistants
  • Registration & Records Assistants
  • Attendance Technicians
  • Couriers
  • Electricians
  • Carpenters, Painters & Glaziers
  • HVAC Specialists
  • Machine Operators
  • Engineers
  • Building & Ground Keepers
  • Maintenance Personnel
  • Custodians
  • Janitors
  • Technology Coordinators
  • Computer Operators & Programmers
  • Systems Analysts & Data Processing Specialists
  • Media & Public Relations Specialists
  • Audiovisual & Language Technicians 
  • Mechanical Technicians
  • Security Guards
  • School Resource Officers
  • Security Workers

For more information about the Education Support Staff Professional of the Year program, please contact Jennifer Robel at robelj@Michigan.gov or (517) 241-7054.

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