Arizona Education Association nominates Kyrene staff member for national award

The Arizona Education Association has named Steve Schaeffer, an instructional assistant at Kyrene de la Paloma Elementary School, as Arizona’s official state nominee for the National Education Association’s Education Support Professional of the Year award.

NEA Education Support Professional of the Year is a prestigious national award, created to recognize extraordinary school staff members who have a transformative impact on students, families, coworkers and their communities, a press release explained.

Each year, the NEA ESP of the Year receives a $10,000 personal cash prize and serves as an ambassador for education support professionals across the country. 

Educators in nine career families are eligible, including paraprofessionals, classroom aides, student behavior and attendance interventionists, school secretaries, family liaisons, bus drivers, food service workers and security guards among others. 

As Arizona’s official state nominee, Schaeffer will attend the awards banquet in Las Vegas, Nevada next spring and will be eligible for selection for this important national honor.

“Paloma derives much of its strength because of Steve’s dedication and leadership. It is impossible for me to express the profound impact Steve has had on both students and staff,” Dr. Stephanie Leake, principal at Kyrene de la Paloma, stated in the release. 

Schaeffer has spent 17 years working at Kyrene de la Paloma Elementary School. 

“He is masterful at knowing when a child must be pushed to reach their capacity through productive struggle, and when they need a supportive adult providing encouragement and partnership,” Leake stated. 

As an instructional assistant in the Cross Categorical Behavioral program, he supports students with significant behavioral and sensory needs, working with them 1:1 and in small groups to help them build interpersonal skills and learn how to manage their emotions and behavior.

“The contributions of education support professionals are often overlooked. But the support of a highly skilled ESP can be a turning point in a student’s life, and Steve Schaeffer’s career is a perfect illustration of that. We are thrilled that he will be Arizona’s official nominee for this prestigious award,” stated Marisol Garcia, president of the Arizona Education Association, in the release.