Lois Powers, a career resource librarian in the Office of Career Services at UMass Boston and a member of the Classified Staff Union, has been named the 2014 MTA ESP of the Year.
Powers has worked at UMass Boston for 23 years. MTA's ESP Committee, which reviews submissions for the ESP of the Year Award, pointed to Powers' "exemplary professional practice" as a career librarian who shows her dedication to students "with the advice and needed guidance to direct them in their future employment and curriculum decisions." The award was announced on Saturday, April 5, at the annual MTA ESP Conference at the Sea Crest Beach Hotel in Falmouth.
After she received the award, Powers told her 430 fellow ESPs at the conference that she believes in "paying it forward. That's why I have volunteered to mentor others, as I have been the recipient of positive mentorship."
Powers said that when she was asked to join a small group creating the bylaws of the Classified Staff Union as it was affiliating with the MTA eight years ago, "it was the beginning of many more opportunities that have come my way" to help build a strong local and work with many others in the MTA and the National Education Association.
In introducing Powers on Saturday, ESP Committee member Janelle Quarles said Powers has that “certain something” with students, “a nurturer with a listening ear, a calm demeanor and an encouraging smile. The ESP of the Year needs to be creative and innovative, a tireless worker, someone who wants to make a difference in the lives of his or her students—not just in the just short term, but for the long haul.”
Powers is also an ardent supporter of workers' rights. She has been involved in contract bargaining for the Classified Staff Union and has represented her local association at annual MTA and NEA governance meetings. She has participated in the NEA Emerging Leaders Program and has mentored other members of her local, urging them to participate in leadership programs.
In her spare time, Powers volunteers for the Internet-based "Freecycle" program. She helps connect those in need of an item or product with those who are willing to part with the same product for free, "thereby promoting recycling, all at no charge to participants," the ESP Committee said in its letter urging her selection.
The conference included workshops that ranged from “Classroom Management for ESPs” to “Unmasking the Social Mind of Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome” and a keynote speech by Maury Koffman, a member of the NEA Executive Committee from East Lansing, Mich.
Koffman, a second-generation union activist, is in his fifth term as president of the 2,300-member Administrative Professional Association at Michigan State University.
He spoke to the ESPs of his admiration for his mother, an ESP who became president of a local Michigan Education Association affiliate. “The union blood boils deep within me,” he said, explaining his decision to become an activist.
“We have to fight every day in our battle to protect public education,” said Koffman. He called it an irony that “bureaucrats believe they know what’s best for our students” without spending a day in schools.
Koffman said that when his local association has invited legislators to ride the bus with students, visit a school cafeteria and sit in on classrooms so they could get to know how the education system works firsthand, “rarely do they accept. They couldn’t last one day in our shoes,” he said.