2017 ESP of the Year Noll brings smiles to all who enter school

Anyone who enters Albany Elementary School is greeted by the smiling face of Diane Noll.
That positive, supportive, welcoming attitude is part of why Noll was named Education Minnesota’s 2017 Education Support Professional of the Year.

But as an administrative assistant, Noll does much more than sit at the front desk.

“It’s amazing how fast the day goes, because there is always something to do,” said Noll.

Whether it’s doing the daily attendance and announcements or fixing the copier, Noll is up for the challenge. 

She files the Staff Automated Report (STAR) with the Minnesota Department of Education, helps out in the nurse’s office, orders supplies, sorts the mail, gets the lunch count to the cafeteria staff and takes phone calls from parents. All of this goes into a normal day for Noll, on top of helping with the ever-changing needs of the school’s growing staff and student population.

Albany Elementary is home to 600 students and 90 staff, all who know and rely on Noll.

“Every staff member has their needs that they come and ask me questions about,” she said. “They ask about the copier, needing more construction paper, why is a kid sick or just come down and vent about something.”

Every student walking in the door knows Noll, and loves her, said Carla Bauer, president of the Albany Education Assistants & School-Related Personnel local union.

“She’s an important person, the first person we see in our building,” Bauer said. “But she’s also an important person for our ESPs, because she is out there fighting for us all the time.”

Noll served as the local’s president before Bauer and continues to work on behalf of her colleagues, fighting for support staff training opportunities and better benefits.

“We wouldn’t have holiday pay or sick time without the union fighting for it,” said Noll. “We have a 403(b) now that we didn’t have before, and the amount being submitted is more than before. Because we’re a unit, we can fight for that. It’s also important to have another set of ears when there’s a problem.”

And when the district sent out the staff development calendar for the year, Noll spoke up about what was missing.

“There’s nothing for support staff,” she said. “I went to the school board and told them they need to give us every opportunity to succeed.”

Noll is humble about being named ESP of the Year, but is glad to shine a light on the work of administrative assistants.

“The last few years, it’s been given to a para,” she said. “They do great work, but it’s important for admins to get recognized too.”

She said the work of an administrative assistant can be stressful, especially in a small school, where you are working alone.

“We’re alone in our field because we’re not in the classroom,” she said. “This is a high-stress job. We have to keep track of everything going on in the school.”

Noll hopes to not only share more about the role of administrative assistants with her title, but the work of everyone in ESP positions.

“If the bus drivers weren’t here, the kids wouldn’t get here, and it’s important for them to say good morning to help the kids start their day,” said Noll. “The cooks feed kids, sometimes the only meal they get all day. Paras working one-on-one with kids with so many needs. These paras do an amazing amount of work to help our teachers. Janitors are unsung heroes. We take for granted that every morning the garbage is empty.

“All these things the support staff group does can go unnoticed. These are all things to help the teachers teach. Having ESPs is important for our teachers to succeed and our students to succeed.”

For winning the award, Noll receives a $1,000 honorarium and an iPad, plus an expense-paid trip to the National Education Association Education Support Professional National Conference next spring.