Osseo District Staff Member is ‘Education Support Professional of the Year’
Education Minnesota honored Michelle Dennard as its “Education Support Professional of the Year” for 2020-2021.
An education support professional, or ESP, works closely alongside students and teachers. Position duties for ESPs vary by district and even by school. But an ESP can help a student with learning a skill, eating lunch, or just ensuring the student is safe.
Michelle Dennard has worked for 16 years in Osseo Area Schools with special education students. She currently works at the Osseo Education Center. There, she serves students ages 17-21 who have significant emotional needs requiring a separate site to receive those services.
“Michelle is an ESP who is focused on recognizing strengths of scholars so they can use those strengths to overcome the challenges they face in our society,” said Angela VanHee, an administrator at Osseo Education Center, in her award recommendation letter for Dennard. “She builds relationships that results in students feeling valued and confident.”
A five-member selection committee that includes members of Education Minnesota, a previous winner and a representative of an external organization all select the Education Support Professional of the Year. Dennard will also receive a new Apple iPad and a $1,200 honorarium. She’ll be nominated for the national award too.
Dennard is also active in Education Minnesota Osseo ESP local union. She has created an affinity group for ESPs of Color to network and discuss school and union issues. She also is the first ESP and member of color in many years to sit on Education Minnesota’s Governing Board executive committee.
For Dennard, her work comes back to her students.
“I make sure that all students’ overall needs are met, regardless of their level, race or gender, and that they have the tools to succeed,” said Dennard in a press release.