Being a local Association building rep is a complex job, but Ledyard building rep Tiffany MacCall describes the essence of her role simply. “I try to make days better for teachers because everything’s getting harder and harder. I want to make sure teaching is a profession that still has joy.”
The Juliet W. Long third grade teacher says, “Members really come to depend on you. It’s often the little things—questions about when the first paycheck of the year will be, or about the contract.”
This kind of routine question can be especially overwhelming for new teachers, and so MacCall says one of the very first things she did when she became a building rep was to put together a new teacher manual.
“New teachers have so much on their plates. When I started teaching I didn’t even know how to call the office. New teachers often don’t know where to turn with their questions, and people sometimes assume they know much more than they do.”
The new teacher guide covers many aspects of the contract from personal and sick leave to maternity leave to lunch time and planning minutes, MacCall says. In addition to summarizing parts of the contract, when MacCall was developing the guide she emailed the entire district, including administrators and secretaries, and asked for feedback on the things staff wished they had known when they started working in Ledyard.
MacCall has been teaching in Ledyard for 12 years, and is in her third year as a building rep. Although she says she had a lot to learn in her first years as a rep, she was lucky to have a unique source of support.
“My father, Neil Solar, is a teacher at Cutler Middle School in Groton and has been a union rep for 30 years,” MacCall says. “I’ve always been inspired by him. I bring questions to him and he helps me with advice about challenging situations.”
Teachers often feel that they are asked to do a lot more than they can, MacCall says, and need to know there is someone who can speak up for them.
“Having a voice is really important,” she says. “Rather than framing issues as complaints, I try to walk in to conversations with administration with a solution. When teacher morale is low, it’s a problem for the entire school community that we should all be invested in changing.”