North Carolina Bus Driver and Teacher Assistant Named 2011 NEA ESP of the Year


By Lance Fuller

In front of a banquet hall at the WashingtonHilton, Ernest “Jameel” Williams graciously accepted the 2011 National Education Association Education Support Professional (ESP) of the Year Award on Friday night surrounded by about 1,000 fellow ESPs, state Association staff and others from across the country.

A bus driver and teacher assistant from Henderson, N.C., Williams has taught at L.B. Yancey Elementary School for all 23 years of his education career. At Yancey, he has served as a teacher’s assistant with at-risk youth and in the art and music department. (See Also: Barry Crocker, Georgia Custodian, Wins C.L.E.A.N. Award.)

Aside from his work in the classroom, Williams has served his local and state Associations as the first non-certified local unit president advocating for ESPs to become certified teachers. He has also served as the North Carolina ESP president and sits on several state and national boards of directors.

“E. Jameel Williams is an outstanding leader, and he demonstrates the commitment that ESPs bring to help students succeed in school,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.  “He also exemplifies the strong bridges that ESPs create between their schools and their community.”

Williams was presented with a $10,000 check from the Gardner Rich Foundation of Chicago of which he will donate $5,000 to a charity of his choice.

After being presented with the check, a glass trophy, long-stemmed white roses and a bear hug from NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, Williams asked, “What does ESP mean to me? … ‘E’ stands for excellent. Excellent at providing a quality education to our boys and girls in public schools.

‘S’ stands for service. We volunteer countless of hours of service to our local, state and national Association.

‘P’ stands for purpose. We have a strong purpose and responsibility to advocate for what’s right for ESPs. Professional respect, professional pay and professional rights.”