A West Haven Elementary staff member is earning time in the spotlight as the Tennessee Educational Support Professional (ESP) of the Year and will attend the National Education Association’s ESP Conference.
Patricia Jackson has been an ESP at West Haven for 23 years and has a heart for her students.
“I get really close to a lot of my kids,” Jackson said. “I’ve got kids in their 20s and 30s that still call me. I think it’s because I try to get really involved with the students that are the most needy. Those that just don’t have it anywhere else.”
Jackson initially applied to West Haven to be a secretary, but the then-principal offered her a TA position instead. As a former Big Sister for Big Brothers, Big Sisters and volunteer for her church’s kids’ ministry, she was happy to accept a position to work more closely with the students.
“I think they know I love them, and that’s very important,” she said. “Being a TA, I can do that more than the teacher. The teacher has a whole class. All of us TAs, we have that freedom to reach out a little more personally to these kids.”
Jackson also serves on the executive board of the KCEA as a classified staff member. She uses this platform to build up other TAs personally and professionally.
“I do try to get people involved because the more involved the TAs get, the more we have to work with,” Jackson said. “I’m trying to be a cheerleader for them.”
She hopes fellow ESPs recognize the importance of their jobs.
“To other TAs everywhere, my advice would be to never, ever say, ‘my opinions aren’t important, I’m just the peon,’” she said. “Be proud of what you can be to your teachers and the students and look at it like, ‘Wow. They couldn’t do it without me.’”
Jackson travels to Seattle for the NEA ESP Conference from March 23-26 where she will attend workshops and networking events. The national ESP of the Year will be announced at a banquet for the state winners on Saturday.