The Oregon Department of Education and Oregon State Lottery partner to recognize the incredible efforts and impact of Education Support Professionals in Oregon.
In a surprise announcement on Thursday, May 6 via Zoom, Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill and Senator Betsy Johnson virtually joined Jewell superintendent Steve Phillips and principal Jon Wood in honoring Paula Steinweg as Oregon’s very first Education Support Professional of the Year!
“Paula’s outstanding work and dedication to her students is truly remarkable,” said Governor Brown. “I’ve heard about how she works day in and day out to support students, families, and the whole Jewell community — even working with high school students who needed extra help to stay on the path to graduation. Congratulations, Paula, on this great achievement. Jewell School District is so lucky to have you.”
For over 20 years, Paula has served in a variety of roles at Jewell School District and currently works as a bus driver, education assistant and school librarian. Paula initiated and coordinates a bi-annual Washington D.C. trip for middle school students, providing the opportunity for out of state travel and to experience culture and history beyond the Jewell community. Paula facilitates every detail from curriculum to travel plans to fundraising, ensuring that all students can participate. During Jewell’s COVID-19 response last spring, Paula stepped in to deliver food and school work packets to students. At each stop, she checked in with the family and every student, asking about their emotional, academic and logistical needs. Families came to depend on her reassuring and friendly visits.
Paula is also a longtime Nehalem Valley 4H club leader, volunteering countless hours supporting youth projects and even starting a swine breeding operation so every student in the community has equal access to raise a piglet. Paula never shies away from a challenge, and there’s no job too big or too small for her when it comes to supporting students.
“Paula is not afraid to try, fail, and try again, especially when the success of a student is on the line,” said Jewell School principal Jon Wood. “Because she knows our community well she is an incredibly valuable asset to our school. Her drive is unparalleled and dedication is second to none!”
“Paula is a deeply appreciated, influential and beloved ESP in the Jewell community, and it’s very clear to see why; students and their interests are her highest priority,” said Director Colt Gill. “Oregon ESP’s fill countless roles in our schools, ensuring our education systems reach the needs of each and every student. Thank you Paula, and all of our committed ESP’s, for your irreplaceable, invaluable service!”
Thanks to the Oregon Department of Education’s partnership with the Oregon Lottery, Paula received a monetary gift of $5,000 and an award plaque. A matching plaque and banner were awarded to the school to mark Paula’s achievements and her impact on the Jewell community.
“Congratulations to Paula Steinweg for being selected as the first recipient of this award,” said Oregon Lottery Director Barry Pack. “Paula not only possesses the core values of accountability, equity, excellence, and integrity, she exemplifies them for her co-workers, students, and community. Dedicated professionals like Paula are the heart and soul of school districts across the state.”
Oregon’s Education Support Professional of the Year Program is a result of House Bill 2964, passed by the Oregon Legislature in May of 2019. This bill directs the Oregon Department of Education and Oregon State Lottery to design and implement a program to honor an Oregon education support professional serving students in any grade from prekindergarten through grade 12. ESP’s work together with teachers and administrators in Oregon public schools 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.
Educators nominated for Education Support Professional of the Year are employed by an Oregon public K-12 school or school district and meet the definition of an ESP in Oregon. Eligible nominees for the 2021 award were evaluated through a Blue Ribbon Panel facilitated by ODE.
Nominations for 2022 are open on the Education Support Professional website. Be sure to nominate the life-changing ESP’s in your school!