Above and Beyond: Phyllis Clough Awarded 2021 NEA-Alaska ESP of the Year Award
There’s never a day that goes by that Phyllis Clough isn’t focused on the wellbeing of everyone in her small community of Old Harbor, on Kodiak Island. For 40 years, Phyllis has been an integral part of not only the Old Harbor School, but to the entire population of less than 300 people. And, she does so by satisfying one of the most fundamental human needs–providing food.
On Saturday, January 16th, Phyllis Clough accepted her honor as the 2021 NEA-Alaska Education Support Professional (ESP) of the Year, the highest state-level honor for Alaska education support staff. For all that know her, this was the culmination of a career of service to public education and the embodiment of the steadfast commitment all ESP’s have to their students and fellow educators.
Over her four decades of employment with the Kodiak Island Borough School District she’s worked in a variety of capacities. She’s been a classroom aid, worked in the office, helped with gym classes, and cooked and served meals for students. When Covid-19 arrived in Alaska and schools shut down, Phyllis was on the front line making sure no child, whether enrolled in school or not, went hungry. She and her colleagues made meals for home delivery, complete with art projects for younger students, and snacks for the time between meals.
“School plays such an important role in kids’ life – rain, shine, wind, snow – we’re here – we feed them, welcome them with open arms and show them that we care,” said Phyllis, “school is just an important part of the community.”
It came as no surprise that one of the first things she mentioned during her speech to Delegate Assembly was that her award was to be shared with her fellow union members of the Kodiak Island Educational Support Association (KIESA). Phyllis has been a proud member of her local and NEA-Alaska for over 20 years.
Even after 40 years of working in the Old Harbor School, Phyllis isn’t even considering anything else, but she worries about the future of small schools across the state. “Even before the pandemic, there has been concern about our school closing in Old Harbor due to enrollment,” said Phyllis. “As our student enrollment drops, I fear that the school that I love may have to close. We are a community of people who love where we live and our public school is the heart of our community. I love my job and am so glad that I was hired to serve in this district for forty years. I want to be there for our future. God willing, I will be here a little bit longer if I have my way!”
Phyllis plans to spend her time as ESP of the Year promoting her message of the importance of rural schools, cooking good food for her students, and sharing the advice she delivered to all delegates at DA, “We must always find laughter during the day and try to put a smile on each and every child’s face.”
Congratulations once again to Phyllis Clough, the 2021 NEA-Alaska ESP of the Year.