Meet 2022 Sussex County ESP of the Year Nancy Richeda
Wantage Elementary School paraprofessional Nancy Richeda fell in love more than 27 years ago.
“I was babysitting at home when my children were young, and I decided I didn’t want to do that anymore,” Richeda said. “A good friend of mine told me to come work at the school. I went in, and I immediately fell in love with the autistic population. I was with them for about eight years before I was transferred, but fortunately, I’ve been with a great teacher, Jess Musilli, for a little over 18 years. We have a great relationship, so they never break us apart. They even moved us from one school to another.”
Early on, Richeda was approached about being an association representative, helping to advocate for members and provide information and support.
“I went from association rep to building vice president to treasurer to being on the negotiations team,” Richeda said. “Contract after contract, I worked with Pam Niles, the NJEA field representative at the time. After about 10 years, she suggested that I would make a good NJEA Consultant, but I didn’t even know what a consultant did. I had only ever worked with field representatives. She told me what it would entail and I thought, ‘I can do that!’”
For more than 10 years, Richeda has been an NJEA consultant, assisting local associations, providing training, and bringing back a wealth of knowledge to her own local association.
“Your own local association is your own little world, but when you meet people from all over the state, you see what everyone else is going through,” Richeda said. “You might think you have the worst board or principal, but then you see what everyone else is dealing with. NJEA is really there to help its members and support them. A lot of people aren’t aware of everything NJEA is doing for them.”
Richeda is proud to be the 2022 Sussex County Educational Support Professional (ESP) of the Year, and believes that more recognition should be paid to ESP members.
“Our support staff doesn’t get the support they deserve,” Richeda said. “They aren’t respected enough. People act like anyone can do these jobs, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I see what the people in my district do, and what ESPs in other locals are contributing. Our unions are strong because of the contributions of every member in our associations.”
Richeda was previously honored with the NJEA Career Achievement Award for ESP. She was touched by all of the nomination letters, but one, in particular, stood out.
“It was written by the parents of a student who had since passed away,” Richeda said. “Every year, her family, friends and I celebrate her birthday. Some of these special education kids just grab your heart and never let go, and she was one of them. That was a nice honor.”