hespen 400dpiEducation Minnesota is celebrating American Education Week by honoring Becky Hespen, an educator in the Osseo Area Schools, as the 2016 Education Minnesota Education Support Professional of the Year. This is the highest statewide honor given to ESPs annually.

Hespen is an ESP on leave from Park Center Senior High currently serving as full-time president of EM-O ESP. She has worked with students with special needs in the Osseo district for 23 years in the junior and senior high schools and in vocational and post-secondary programs. She has helped her students become as independent as possible by teaching cooking, hygiene, personal finance and vocational skills.

For the past 11 years, Hespen has been president of her local union of about 800 education support professionals. “I am an honest, engaged, passionate face for the ESPs in our district because I believe that what we do is so important to the success of students,” she said.

Hespen counts among her proudest achievements the creation of a professional development program for ESPs. “The whole professional development piece is a huge passion for me,” she said. “You can’t just throw somebody in who doesn’t know how to swim.”

“Becky has been an extraordinary educator for students with special needs for many years,” said Education Minnesota President Denise Specht. “She has also been an outspoken voice for the support professionals in her district. This honor is well deserved.”

The winner of the Education Support Professional of the Year award is selected by a five-member selection committee that includes three leaders of Education Minnesota, the winner in the previous year and a representative of an external organization, which was United Educators Credit Union this year.

As the new Minnesota Education Support Professional of the Year, Hespen will receive a new Apple iPad and a $1,000 honorarium. She will also be nominated for National Education Association’s ESP of the Year and will receive an all-expense paid trip to Orlando, Fla., for the awards ceremony in March.

Hespen joins nearly 10 Osseo Area Schools employees who have been recognized over the past three years with the highest awards possible from their state or national professional associations. This includes Ingrid Miera, an English language support professional, who was the 2013 Education Minnesota Education Support Professional of the Year.

American Education Week, a national celebration of public education, runs from Nov. 16 through Nov. 20. Wednesday had been designated as Education Support Professionals Day to honor the women and men who keep schools running and students safe, healthy and ready to learn.

-Published Nov. 18, 2015