Education leader Paula Monroe was named 2014 National Education Association Education Support Professional of the Year at an NEA conference in San Francisco in March. The conference, attended by more than 1,000 education support professionals (ESPs) from across the country, focused on the role of support professionals in ensuring student and school success.
In her 26 years with the Redlands Unified School District in California, Monroe has built an impressive record of local, state and national Association service. She is a staunch ESP advocate and path breaker who started her career as a paraprofessional before changing course to serve the district as a clerk-typist and then a secretary.
Winning the annual award “is probably the greatest honor of my life. I’ll do my best to be your ambassador and look forward to the opportunity to be able to talk to you, share with you, listen to you and help you on your journeys,” Monroe told her colleagues in her acceptance speech during the conference award dinner.
Monroe has held many elected positions with the California Teachers Association (CTA) and Redlands Education Support Professionals Association (RESPA), including serving as RESPA’s president from 1999 to 2007. In 2000, Monroe was elected to the NEA Board of Directors and most recently completed a second term with NEA’s Executive Committee.
After decades of speaking at education and labor rallies, addressing the issues of NEA’s half-million ESP members and other educators, and facilitating meetings with Association members, business, media and government leaders, Monroe remains as active and popular as ever.
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel introduced Monroe and presented her with a shining glass trophy and a $10,000 check. “ESPs have never had a greater champion than Paula Monroe,” said Van Roekel.
Earlier in her career, Monroe campaigned for years to have ESPs admitted as full CTA members. In 2006, CTA changed its bylaws and included 5,000 ESPs as full members.
“Paula understood that for ESPs to have a voice in CTA, there had to be a network of committed members who would be willing to work with teachers and CTA leadership as equals,” said CTA President Dean Vogel in his written nomination of Monroe for the award. “This is consistent with her personal values and that of the union.”