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Kyrene Employee Named AZ Nominee for National ESP of the Year Award

Posted October 2023


Steve Schaeffer, an Instructional Assistant in the Cross Categorial Behavioral program at Kyrene de la Paloma Arts Integration Academy has been named Arizona’s official state nominee for the prestigious National Educational Support Professional of the Year Award by the Arizona Education Association (AEA).

Schaeffer worked at Paloma for 17 years where he has supported students with significant behavioral and sensory needs, working with them 1:1 and in small groups to help them build interpersonal skills and learn how to manage their emotions and behavior.

“Paloma derives much of its strength because of Steve’s dedication and leadership. It is impossible for me to express the profound impact Steve has had on both students and staff,” said Paloma principal Dr. Stephanie Leake. “He is masterful at knowing when a child must be pushed to reach their capacity through productive struggle, and when they need a supportive adult providing encouragement and partnership.”


The National Education Support Professional of the Year Award recognizes extraordinary school staff members who have a transformative impact on students, families, coworkers and their communities. Each year, the National ESP of the Year receives a $10,000 personal cash prize and serves as an ambassador for education support professionals across the country. Educators in nine career families are eligible to be nominated for the award, including paraprofessionals, classroom aides, student behavior and attendance interventionists, school secretaries, family liaisons, bus drivers, food service workers, and security guards, among others.


As Arizona’s official state nominee, Schaeffer will attend the official Education Support Professional of the Year awards banquet in Las Vegas, Nevada in spring 2024 and will be eligible for selection at National Education Support Professional of the Year.