Oregon honors first Education Support Professional of the Year, Paula Steinweg

Paula Steinweg, a member of the Oregon School Employees Association (OSEA) Chapter 145 in Jewell, Oregon, has been named Oregon’s “Education Support Professional of the Year.” She is the first recipient of the new award, the result of an OSEA-backed bill passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2019. 

As the recipient of the award, Steinweg will receive $5,000 and an award plaque. A matching plaque and banner were presented to the school to mark her achievements and impact on the community.

For over 20 years, Steinweg  has served in a variety of roles at Jewell School District, including as a bus driver, education assistant and school librarian.

Steinweg initiated and coordinates a bi-annual trip to Washington, D.C., for middle school students. She facilitates every detail of the trip from curriculum and travel plans to fundraising, ensuring all students have the opportunity to experience culture and history beyond the Jewell com- munity.

Last spring, as the Jewell School District responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, Steinweg stepped in to deliver food and school work packets to students at home. At every stop, she checked in with the family and student, asking about their emotional, academic and logistical needs. Families came to depend on her visits.

“What an exciting and incredible honor to have our state recognize—for the first time ever— the hard work and commitment of an OSEA member,” said OSEA President Lisa Gourley. “Paula Steinweg is a rock star! I’m humbled by her dedication and commitment to her students and community. She has created a life exemplary of this honor.”

Oregon’s Education Support Professional of the Year Program was passed by the Oregon Legislature in May 2019. The bill directs the Oregon Department of Education and Oregon State Lottery to design and implement the program to honor an Oregon education support professional (ESP) serving students in any grade from pre-kindergarten through grade 12. 

ESPs work with teachers and administrators to perform a variety of jobs promoting quality education, fostering positive learning environments, offering nutritious meals, providing reliable transportation, maintaining safe and clean schools for all students, and much more.

Eligible nominees for the 2021 award were evaluated through a Blue Ribbon Panel facilitated by Oregon Department of Eduction.

Nominations for 2022 are open now through early January. To nominate an outstanding education support worker, go to oregonteacheroftheyear.org/ nominate-esp. The 2022 winner will be announced via a surprise event in the Spring of 2022.

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