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5 named finalists for 2023-24 ESP of the Year award

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Five education support professionals from around the state have been named finalists for the 2023-24 Education Minnesota ESP of the Year award.

The finalists are:

  • Darci Brown, a bus driver from St. Francis.
  • Laura Denney, a special education intensive education support professional at Elton Hills Elementary in Rochester.
  • Shawn Perez, a resource room paraprofessional at Watertown-Mayer High School in Watertown-Mayer.
  • Amanda Phenix, a special education support professional at Waconia Middle School in Waconia.
  • Dante Pirtle, an education assistant at Henry High School in Minneapolis.

Finalists will now take part in an interview with the selection committee. The winner will be announced at a ceremony this Saturday, Oct. 28. The announcement will be streamed live on Education Minnesota’s Facebook page.

This year, after a record number of nominations and candidate submissions, Education Minnesota is also recognizing four deserving semifinalists for the 2023-24 ESP of the Year award.

The semifinalists are:

  • Aria Campbell, a school success program assistant at Transition Plus in Minneapolis.
  • Angela Duske, a special education paraprofessional at Watertown-Mayer Elementary School in Watertown-Mayer.
  • Kelli Hanson, a paraprofessional at Baxter Elementary in Brainerd.
  • Jason Norden, an education assistant at Edison High School in Minneapolis.

The selection committee consists of:

  • Education Minnesota’s vice president.
  • Education Minnesota’s field director.
  • The previous year’s ESP of the Year Award winner.
  • A representative of another education stakeholder organization.

The ESP of the Year receives a $1,200 honorarium; their choice of a Chromebook or iPad courtesy of Education Minnesota ESI; and an expense-paid trip to the National Education Association’s Education Support Professional National Conference.

Education Minnesota has honored ESPs with this statewide award since 2007.

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