Oregon Honors the 2024 Education Support Professional of the Year Rafael Pelaez!

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The Oregon Department of Education and Oregon Lottery partner to recognize the incredible efforts and impact of Education Support Professionals in Oregon.

 In a surprise announcement event today, Oregon Department of Education (ODE) Director Dr. Charlene Williams joined Oregon Lottery leaders, North Marion School District Superintendent Dr. Bill Rhoades and North Marion High School Principal De Ann Jenness in honoring Rafael Pelaez as Oregon’s 2024 Education Support Professional of the Year!

Rafael Pelaez is the Family Outreach Advocate at North Marion High School. 

Dr. Williams and Jen Roper with Oregon Lottery led the event and awarded Pelaez the honor. Photographs of the event will be added to this folder as they become available. 

“Rafael tirelessly links students and their families to teachers and services,” said ODE Director Dr. Charlene Williams. “He is a skillful bridge builder and exemplary problem solver and I know Rafael is the first call for many students and parents when they have questions or need help navigating the education system. He’s mastered how to help North Marion High School’s diverse student body feel supported, stay engaged and ready to learn. Thank you Rafael for your lasting contributions to so many students and families. Education Support Professionals like you are daily change makers for Oregon’s students.”

“During these times when care, connection, family outreach, and relationship building are so critical to the success of our students, Rafael exemplifies the kind of effort, understanding, and empathy it requires to do this well,” said North Marion School District Superintendent Dr. Bill Rhoades. “He is loved and respected by students, staff, and families. He knows our students and families well and his proactive approach to providing the support they need when they need it generates access, opportunity, and success to many who may not otherwise experience it. We are grateful for Rafael’s mission driven service over the past 23 years and for giving us a chance to celebrate what’s right!”

Thanks to ODE’s partnership with the Oregon Lottery, Rafael received an award of $5,000 and a commemorative plaque. A matching plaque and banner were awarded to North Marion High School to mark Rafael’s achievements and his impact in the North Marion community.

Support From Around The State

Pelaez’s recognition has drawn praise from leaders around the state.

“Rafael’s two decades of work at North Marion High School is inspiring. He has helped to make his school a place of belonging for so many through his work to resolve conflict, coach students, and build community connections,” said Governor Tina Kotek. “He is immensely deserving of this honor, and I wish him a happy, rewarding retirement.”

“We’re proud to support Rafael’s decades of service with the North Marion school district, where his dedication and compassion for families has built trust and understanding,” said Oregon Lottery Director Mike Wells. “Thank you for being a role model in your community and exhibiting values of excellence and equity.”  

Program History

Oregon’s Education Support Professional (ESP) of the Year Program is a result of House Bill 2964, passed by the Oregon Legislature in May of 2019. This bill directed ODE and Oregon Lottery to design and implement a program to honor an Oregon education support professional serving students in any grade from prekindergarten through grade 12. ESPs 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 students and so 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. Nominations for 2025 will open again soon on the Education Support Professional website. Be sure to nominate the life-changing ESPs in your school!

About Author

Marc Siegel is the Communications Director for the Oregon Department of Education. The Oregon Department of Education fosters equity and excellence for every learner through collaboration with educators, partners, and communities.

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