CANTON — Superintendent Derek Folan is pleased to share that Hansen staff member Naomi Akan has been named the 2022 Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) Education Support Professional (ESP) of the Year.
The award honors exceptional ESPs who demonstrate achievements in their field; leadership, creativity and innovation; professional growth that makes a difference for the school, students and community; advocacy for public education; and involvement in the community.
Akan has worked for over five years as an applied behavior analysis (ABA) tutor at Hansen Elementary. She serves as a building representative for the Canton Teachers Association and as part of Unit E. She also works with multiple local groups, including the Canton Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee (CDEI).
“Naomi is a genuine and passionate educator, and brings joy to our Hansen students and staff,” Superintendent Folan said. “She has made Hansen Elementary, our District and our community a better place, and she is everything we look for in an educator. I am so grateful to have Naomi as part of our District, and sincerely congratulate her on this incredible honor.”
Akan was recognized during a surprise ceremony on Tuesday at Hansen with many colleagues, special guests and Hansen students present. She was surprised with the recognition by Principal David Brauninger, and a number of speakers recognized her work within the schools and the Canton community.
Akan was nominated by Hansen teacher and current Massachusetts director on the National Education Association (NEA) Board Yan Yii.
“[Naomi] fights tirelessly for our members and advocates for our students, and while she’s doing this, she’s participating in equity work in our District,” Yii said. “Not only is she an amazing ABA tutor for Canton, she’s engaged in equity work through CFED and the DEI program, and she started and Afro dance troupe in our school that inspires students to celebrate their African heritage. She dives into the work in school, in the Union and in the community, and dedicates herself so selflessly to so many others.”
Akan was described by her colleagues as a dedicated, vibrant presence in the classroom who is an invaluable resource to teachers and students alike.
“In her position, [Naomi] works with a particular student or two, however every student knows, loves and benefits from having Ms. A in their room as I have for a few years,” retired Hansen teacher Patty Willis said. “Naomi is enthusiastic and upbeat. She focuses on kindness, inclusion and being proud of who you are. She gets to know each and every student personally, and she is a role model for every student in the entire building.”
Additional remarks were given by MTA President Merrie Najimy, MTA Vice President Max Page, 2021 MTA ESP of the Year Susan Soares, Canton Teachers Association President Lauren Mahan, Superintendent Folan, School Committee member Maureen Moran, State Rep. Bill Galvin and State Sen. Walter Timilty.
Akan was presented with a citation each from the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Massachusetts State Senate. She was also presented with flowers and balloons by two of her students.
Akan will be officially presented with the award at the 2022 MTA Annual ESP Conference next month.