Sea Crest Beach Hotel
ESPs at the heart of
By Jean Conley
H undreds of Education Support Professionals will converge on Cape Cod early this spring
for a weekend of learning, inspiration
The annual MTA ESP Conference
will be held on April 6 and 7 at the Sea
Crest Beach Hotel in Falmouth.
Leslie Marsland, chair of the
ESP Committee, said the committee
has invited speakers and presenters
who will inspire participants and
offer workshops that will empower
ESPs from across the state — all in a
beautiful oceanfront setting.
“ESPs are critically important to
the school community,” Marsland said.
“This conference provides a wonderful
opportunity for them to enhance
their leadership skills, become more
active, and get the tools they need to
effectively advocate for colleagues and
Workshops were still being
planned as MTA Today went to press,
but topics to be covered include
building technology skills, contract
bargaining, the legal rights of ESPs,
health and wellness, and recognizing
Another highly anticipated
feature — presentation of the annual
MTA ESP of the Year award — will
take place during dinner on Friday
The award honors an ESP at the
state level who has been nominated
by his or her local association as one
who stands up for workers’ rights and
stands out for making a difference in
the lives of students.
MTA President Barbara
Madeloni, Vice President Erik J.
Champy and the winner of the
2018 MTA ESP of the Year award
will address the crowd during the
On Saturday, a breakfast buffet
will be followed by two sessions of
workshops and a luncheon for all
participants before the conference
concludes at about 3 p.m.
A full listing of workshops
and other activities can be found
at massteacher.org/esp. Early bird
registration ends on Friday, March
2. Discounted hotel room rates are
available until March 7, and the final
date to register for the conference is
March 23. If your school district or
local association does not pay
or reimburse your conference costs,
you may be eligible to apply for
a grant. For more information on
costs, hotel charges and registration,
please visit massteacher.org/esp.
Other questions can be e-mailed to
Jessica Parlon in the MTA Division of
Training and Professional Learning at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Her phone
number is 617.878.8153.
ESP Leadership Weekends: Strong leaders, strong locals
Photo by Jean Conley
By Jean Conley
M TA’s 2018 ESP Leadership Weekends launched on Jan. 19 with the message that building strong ESP leaders helps build
strong students, locals and communities.
The course teaches leadership strategies and
helps participants strengthen interpersonal skills and
build resilience as attacks on unions intensify.
Participants dug in right away, delving
into topics such as embracing change, building
confidence in their ability to lead, overcoming fear
and developing assertiveness.
Roylene Hunte, a classroom paraeducator at the
Pierce School in Brookline, said that attending her
first MTA ESP Conference last year opened her eyes.
“I was just so inspired,” she said. “It made me
want to take on a leadership role at my school.”
The leadership program, which runs through
April 7, requires a three-weekend commitment.
But participants said the prospect of learning how
to become leaders at such a crucial time for unions
— while forging strong bonds with their fellow
ESPs — was a strong motivator.
Janice McKeown, a special education
paraeducator at the Runkle School in Brookline,
“Being an ESP is absolutely a career,” she said.
“We need to share our stories.”
Susan Markievitz, a paraeducator at Haverhill
High School, is new to MTA union activism. She
said she was drawn to sign up for the leadership
program because she wanted “to find out more, get
my foot in the door — and do my best to help out.”
Shannon Smith, a special education paraeducator
at the Gates Lane School in Worcester, said that as he
has become more involved in his union, he has looked
for more opportunities to build his comfort level so
that he could “step in and rectify situations” at his
The Massachusetts Teachers Association is hiring. To view available job opportunities, please visit massteacher.org/jobs.
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JOBS AT THE
Shannon Smith, third from left, made a point during a workshop at the first ESP Leadership
Weekend. With Smith are participants Susan Markievitz, far left, and Elsa Trinidad, right. ESP
Committee member Shaleah Rather, second from left, served as a facilitator.