Yvonne Williams wants MEA’s Education Support Professionals to banish a word from their vocabulary: “Justa.”
“It would not be unusual to hear one of our colleagues say I am justa bus driver, I’m justa secretary or I’m justa custodian,” the recently retired MEA Northern Zone Director told attendees at the ESP Statewide Conference in Port Huron in March.
“Don’t let anyone tell you or imply that your position is any less than any other position or your employment is not valuable,” Williams said in the keynote address at the conference’s Friday night dinner. “Remember—you are more than a Justa!”
Williams began her career as a substitute bus aide, and she worked as a special education paraprofessional before earning a degree and credential to become a special education teacher. Her involvement in union leadership eventually led to professional and management roles at MEA.
“Do you know what kind of power you have as an ESP?” she asked the crowd. “Do you know that it would be virtually impossible for a school district to operate without you? Believe the work you do is imperative; it is necessary for the success of everyone involved.”
Members and leaders from all over the state attended the two-day conference to take advantage of professional development on topics ranging from leadership principles to grievance processing, CPR and first aid, MEA and NEA member benefits, and understanding laws related to school work.