American Education Week honors educators

American Education Week

Massachusetts is celebrating American Education Week in a big way.

During American Education Week – which runs from Monday, Nov. 18, through Friday, Nov. 22 – schools around the Commonwealth will hold an array of events, some of which will feature prominent education figures along with parents and other distinguished guests.

Education Support Professionals Day is Wednesday, Nov. 20, and Massachusetts will host a high-profile reception to mark the occasion and honor the special role of ESPs across the country. Among those speaking will be NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, MTA President Paul Toner and former Massachusetts ESP of the Year Jean Fay.

ESPs play essential roles in the nation’s public schools as paraprofessionals and other teaching assistants, school secretaries and office staff, custodial staff, food service workers and bus drivers.

“American Education Week is a perfect time to honor the work of all educators,” Toner said. “They dedicate their lives to helping students succeed, and they should be recognized for their service to their schools and their communities.

“I am proud to be an educator myself – and proud that Massachusetts leads the nation in education by many measures of student achievement,” he added.

At lunchtime on ESP Day, Van Roekel and Toner plan to visit the John F. Kennedy Middle School in Northampton and serve lunch to students. Word has it that the two leaders – who are expected to be joined by Kevin Concannon, undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture – may even don chef’s hats for the event.

They will be accompanied by Northampton Association of School Employees President Sharon Carlson; Donna Johnson, president of the University Staff Association at UMass Amherst; and school Principal Lesley Wilson.

After lunch, the group will meet informally with the school’s ESPs in the library, where a check for $500 will be presented to the school for library books.

Also that day, Toner and Van Roekel will attend the second annual Safe School Summit, which is presented by the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office in Northampton and co-sponsored by the MTA and NEA. The program aims to give educators the knowledge and tools they need to meet the needs of young people who are dealing with mental health issues.

An ESP reception will be held at the conclusion of the summit, and all MTA members are invited to attend. Van Roekel, Toner and Fay, Amherst-Pelham Education Association President and MTA’s ESP of the Year in 2011, will be among those making remarks.

Also on hand will be Laura Montgomery, president of the National Council for Education Support Professionals, and Donna Schulze, NEA’s ESP of the Year and a paraeducator from Maryland.

On Thursday, Toner and Van Roekel – joined by several celebrity guests – will continue to recognize the great work that educators do with students across the state and the nation. The leaders will visit the Parlin School in Everett for an “Educator for a Day” event. They will be accompanied by Billy Costa, host of the popular “High School Quiz Show,” which is televised on WGBH; former Celtics player Dana Barros; and Boston Mamas blogger Christine Koh. The three plan to shadow educators in their classrooms.

Kim Auger, president of the Everett Teachers Association, and Parlin Principal Michelle Massa will host the afternoon’s events, which will also include a visit to kindergartners by Red Sox mascot Wally the Green Monster. A reception will follow for Parlin educators to meet with Toner and Van Roekel. Wally will also present a $500 check from the NEA to the school to help buy library books.

Van Roekel said the weeklong nationwide celebration of American Education Week “recognizes all of those around us who are working to make public schools great for every student.” Excellent public schools “are a basic right, and our responsibility,” he said.