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Park City educator receives national recognition for work helping education support professionals

Jen Bramson holds flowers and balloons after McPolin Elementary staff and students surprised her with a celebration for earning the Education Support Professional of the Year Award.
Colton Elliott
Park City School District
Jen Bramson holds flowers and balloons after McPolin Elementary staff and students surprised her with a celebration for earning the Education Support Professional of the Year Award.

A McPolin preschool teacher has received national recognition for her work advocating for students and education support professionals.

The National Education Association awarded Jen Bramson with the 2024 Education Support Professional of the Year Award. Bramson is a paraeducator and lead preschool teacher at McPolin Elementary School. She has worked in Park City as an educator for over 10 years and is on the executive board for the Utah School Employees Association.

Bramson said education support professionals are people in a school district who aren’t licensed teachers, including paraeducators, bus drivers and custodians.

“They're the first people children see in the morning and the last people they see when they're heading out of the school," she said. "Often, they have a connection with them through their entire time in school.”

She said these professionals often don’t receive a living wage and there are shortages in almost every educational support position across the state. However, Bramson worked with the Park City Education Association, the district board of education and the district superintendent to increase wages for education support professionals in spring 2023. They negotiated an $8-an-hour market correction for these workers, with $20 per hour being the minimum wage for all district employees.

“It was a life-changing raise for our ESPs. We'd heard from people that were able to quit second jobs, someone that had just gone through a divorce was able to save her house," Bramson said. "The stories were so moving.”

Bramson said the district now regularly doesn’t have any open positions as people are earning a living wage. She also recognized it takes a team to make positive changes in schools.

“I don't ever do this work on my own," Bramson said. "It takes a large group to make things happen. So it's a powerful group and to be honored as one of the top in the nation was a mind-blowing honor.”

Bramson also supports students in her preschool classroom at McPolin. McPolin is a Title 1 school with over 40% of students from low-income families. Bramson said in her classroom, half the kids are native Spanish speakers and half are native English speakers. She said that means she has to meet students where they are and individualize education to help them progress.

“We have families that are at the highest income brackets to the lowest income brackets and if we can level that playing field before they start kindergarten we can change their trajectory for life,” Bramson said.

Utah School Employees Association President Mike Evans nominated Bramson for the award. He said in a press release Bramson “is a joy to work with and has a great passion for what she does.” He also said he “cannot think of a better person to represent all education support professionals.”

The NEA President Becky Pringle said in the release Bramson “goes above and beyond to foster the learning of children with diverse needs” and she “embodies the core values of educational support professionals.”

Bramson will serve as an ambassador for other education support professionals nationwide. As an ambassador, she will have the opportunity to speak on behalf of students and education support professionals on the state and federal levels.