NEA-Alaska selected Bobby LaSalle, a speech and language therapy assistant at North Pole Elementary School, as the 2017 ESP of the Year.
LaSalle is a 28-year union veteran who has also worked for the Fairbanks Resource Agency for 14 years. Her specialty is working with people with disabilities. In addition to her work at North Pole Elementary, LaSalle works for Fairbanks Resource Agency as a Family Service Provider, helping families work with their loved ones who suffer from disabilities ranging from autism to traumatic brain injuries.
“It’s my pleasure to present Bobby with this great award,” said NEA-Alaska President Tim Parker. “ESPs from all across Alaska are proud of the work that Bobby does and the way that she represents classified members.”
Parker and local Education Support Staff Association president Irene Matheis surprised LaSalle during lunch on November 7th. With more than a dozen of her colleagues looking on, LaSalle smiled and shed a few tears as Matheis presented her with the award.
LaSalle started as a custodian and then became a special education teacher’s aide. She was a speech and language therapy intern for three years. She has an Associates Degree in Developmental Disabilities.
LaSalle is a member of the Education Support Staff Association where she has served on the executive board, rights committee, multiple bargaining teams, and as a building representative. She is excellent at advocating for members and the students that she works with every day.
ESSA president Irene Matheis said LaSalle is always interested in what’s best for all employees. When the district increased the amount of time that SLPAs needed to complete paperwork for Medicaid reports, LaSalle demonstrated what she had to do and the district agreed to pay her for an extra half hour. But LaSalle said told the district that if she needed the additional time, they all did.
“Now all the SLPAs have that half hour,” Matheis said. “That is the type of stuff that she does. She tells people that if you don’t like what’s going on, you have got to show up.”
LaSalle is especially connected to her work on a personal level as the mother of a son with special needs. Bobby’s son passed away in 2012, but his legacy lives on in her as she continues to volunteer with the Special Olympics, and assist families with developmentally disabled children.