Naomi Akan of Hansen Elementary Recognized as Educational Support Professional of the Year by the Massachusetts Teachers Association

For immediate release

CANTON – Superintendent Derek Folan is pleased to announce that Hansen staff member Naomi Akan has been named the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) 2022 Educational Support Professional (ESP) of the Year.

The award honors outstanding ESPs who demonstrate achievement in their field; leadership, creativity and innovation; professional growth that makes a difference to the school, students and community; advocacy for public education; and community involvement.

Akan worked for over five years as an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) tutor at Hansen Elementary School. She is a building representative for the Township Teachers Association and is part of Unit E. She also works with several local groups, including the Township Committee for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (CDEI).

“Naomi is a genuine and passionate educator, and brings joy to our students and staff at Hansen,” 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 in our district and I sincerely congratulate her on this incredible honor.

Akan was recognized at a surprise ceremony Tuesday at Hansen attended by many of Hansen’s colleagues, special guests and students. She was surprised at Principal David Brauninger’s recognition, and a number of speakers acknowledged his work within schools and the township community.

Akan was nominated by Yan Yii, Hansen’s teacher and current Massachusetts director on the board of directors of the National Education Association (NEA).

“[Naomi] tirelessly fights for our members and advocates for our students, and while she does that, she participates in equity work in our district,” Yii said. “Not only is she an amazing ABA tutor for Canton, but she is committed to equity work through CFED and the DEI program, and has created an Afro dance troupe at our school that inspires students to celebrate their African heritage.She immerses herself in work in school, in the union and in the community, and dedicates herself so selflessly to so many others.

Akan has been described by her colleagues as a dedicated and dynamic presence in the classroom who is an invaluable resource for teachers and students.

“In his position, [Naomi] works with one or two particular students, but each student knows, loves, and benefits from having Mrs. A in her room like I did for a few years,” said Hansen’s retired teacher Patty Willis. “Naomi is enthusiastic and optimistic. She focuses on kindness, inclusion, and being proud of who you are. She gets to know each student personally and she is a role model for each student throughout the building.

Additional remarks were delivered by MTA President Merrie Najimy, MTA Vice President Max Page, MTA ESP of the Year 2021 Susan Soares, Canton Teachers Association President Lauren Mahan, Superintendent Folan, School Committee Member Maureen Moran, State Representative Bill Galvin and State Senator. Walter Timilty.

Akan received a citation from the Massachusetts House of Representatives and the Massachusetts State Senate. She also received flowers and balloons from two of her students.

Akan will officially receive the award at the MTA’s ESP 2022 Annual Conference next month.


Andrew B. Reiter