“I feel like I’m making such a difference in my community”

Meet Salem County ESP of the Year Amy Tighe 

For Amy Tighe, 2022 Salem County Educational Support Professional (ESP) of the Year, family is everything. Although she started her career in nursing, her main priority has always been her family. Once her children started school in the Penns Grove-Carney’s Point School District, she became more interested in education. The principal at her children’s school suggested that she work in the district. The superintendent—who happened to have been the principal when Tighe was in high school at Gateway Regional in Woodbury Heights—was thrilled that Tighe wanted to work in the schools.  

Twenty-four years later, Tighe still loves working as a paraprofessional in Penns Grove-Carney’s Point. In fact, she is now the president of the Penns Grove-Carney’s Point Regional School Employees Association.  

“I’m proud to be the first ESP president of an all-inclusive local in our county,” Tighe said. “I’m very old school; my father was a union member; my brothers are union members. I was brought up to believe that unions fight for workers’ rights, benefits and wages.”  

Tighe takes her career as a paraprofessional very seriously. She knows the difference she makes in her students’ lives.  

“There are kids living in my community who are getting a strong foundation because of me,” she said. But she also knows that paraprofessionals, and other ESPs, are not paid in proportion to the impact they have on their schools and their communities.  

“I was fortunate that my husband had a good job and made a good living,” Tighe said. “I didn’t have to worry as much about the low pay. I could focus on the difference I make in children’s lives.” 

But Tighe knows that not every ESP—or teacher—can afford to stay in the profession.  

“I believe that everyone should have a job that lets them support their families; they shouldn’t need two or three jobs,” Tighe said. “One of my goals right now is to make sure that we’re raising wages, so members don’t need so many jobs to make ends meet.”   

At the same time, Tighe is concerned about ongoing health and safety issues and the impact of a potential consolidation of school districts in Salem County on members’ livelihoods.  

“I’m doing a lot of fighting right now,” Tighe laughed.  

“ESP are the backbone of every school district,” Tighe continued. “To be put in a position to represent ESPs as the Salem County ESP of the Year makes me ecstatic. I’m so proud to represent such a wonderful group of people who are working hard every day.” 

Even after her year as the Salem County ESP of the Year concludes, Tighe is committed to continuing her advocacy for all of her members.  

“We represent everyone, and we are all in this together: all job categories, certified, uncertified,” Tighe said. “We are brothers and sisters in our union.”