Michelle Elwell, a teacher assistant at Rockport Middle School, was named MTA’s Education Support Professional of the Year on Friday, April 10, at the annual ESP Conference in Falmouth.
Elwell has worked for the Rockport Public Schools for the past 26 years. She is known for her boundless energy in the classroom and her dedication as a field hockey coach, as well as for her union leadership, her commitment to her students and her spirit of volunteerism in the community.
She is a former president and currently treasurer of her local, the Rockport Educational Support Staff Association, and she has served on the association’s bargaining team.
In accepting the award, Elwell told her fellow ESPs, “My story is your story. We show up, we work with some very difficult situations, and we do whatever we can to help the students find success each day.”
“I’ve always said that my job is like putting a Band-Aid on something that needs 30 stitches, so a sense of humor is key.”
“The kids make me laugh,” she continued. “They are my fountain of youth and why I show up each day.” At the end of some days, she said, “I think, how can I do this again tomorrow?” And then she answered her own question. “The community, the service and the kids are the driving force."
At school, Elwell’s workday often begins at 6:30 a.m., when she volunteers as the supervisor of the school’s Homework Club before her regular classroom assignment begins. After school, she continues at the Homework Club, assisting students with their assignments and projects and mentoring the high school students who help out.
But her day is not always done when Homework Club is finished. Elwell coaches the Middle School Field Hockey team during its season, and as a longtime member of and driving force behind the community’s Friends of Rockport Athletics, she is often seen volunteering at community-sponsored games during the afternoon, evening and on weekends.
In 2013 she received the National Honor Society’s Community Service Award. Her fund-raising volunteer work at First Congregational Church Rockport and her work on the Old Sloop Community Fair have led to dramatic successes in fund-raising.
The ESP conference, held at the Sea Crest Beach Hotel, included numerous workshops ranging from “Meeting the Needs of the Whole Student” and “True Colors: A Personality Assessment” to “Beginning Organizing: Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone” and “Creating and Sustaining a Democratic Classroom.”
On Friday night, MTA President Barbara Madeloni and Vice President Janet Anderson spoke to the hundreds of ESPs who had gathered for a dinner and the awards ceremony.
Madeloni said she saw “a room packed with power” as she looked out at the hundreds of ESPs in the audience. She reminded them that while their workdays are spent empowering the students in their care, ESPs also hold tremendous power to shape the workplaces and the communities in which they work.
Anderson, a Taunton fifth-grade teacher, said “there isn’t a school that can function without ESPs,” and she expressed the profound gratitude of the entire school community for the work done by ESPs.