Approximately 6,000 educator delegates from around the nation are gathered this week for the NEA Representative Assembly, and Connecticut delegates are among them, doing their part to advance the work of the country’s largest labor union.
Most educators say that this year has challenged them like none other; however, despite attacks on the teaching profession, criticisms of curriculum, educator shortages, and more, teachers attending the RA are standing up and standing strong.
NEA President Becky Pringle, pictured above, told delegates that despite the many challenges they face, “you’ve embraced your role as the voice of education professionals; you understand that our work is fundamental to this nation, so you have accepted the profound trust that has been placed in us. You have found a way to resist, even as you hold onto joy.”
She encouraged delegates to take their passion for their students and their profession with them to the polls this November to elect pro-education candidates who will stand with students and educators.
NEA Executive Director Kim Anderson’s words to delegates about the political climate educators and public schools are facing were sobering: “I would submit to you that we have never faced this complex a set of ideological factions and movements in our union’s history.”
She continued, “The importance of public education and, more importantly, the nation’s educators, has never been more evident or urgent. In this time filled with darkness, public education brings light. In this time filled with despair, public education brings hope.”
And hope was the theme of 2022 National Teacher of the Year Kurt Russell’s remarks to delegates.
“The foundation of this country, the greatness of this country, begins with a teacher,” he said. “It’s teachers who model empathy during difficult times, it’s teachers who put smiles on students’ faces, it’s teachers who provide inspiration, it’s teachers who give hope. Teachers are hope personified.”
Like educators across the country, Russell, a social studies teacher from Oberlin, Ohio, said he felt a sense of sadness and despair after the horrific murder of children and educators in Uvalde, Texas. Yet, he wrote on social media in the days following the attack, “I still have hope.”
He told delegates that he continues to have hope in the millions of courageous and brilliant students who will create a better world, the millions of educators who inspire them and love them, and he continues to have hope in the transformative power of education.
Connecticut educator honored
During the RA, delegates spend long days on the convention floor carrying out the work of the union while evening events offer an opportunity to celebrate and honor dedicated educators.
This year, one of those honored on the national stage was Greenwich teacher Valerie Bolling, this year’s recipient of NEA’s H. Council Trenholm Memorial Award.
Bolling, an instructional coach, has been teaching for nearly three decades, and from the beginning of her career has championed diversity, equity, and inclusion—seeking to make sure her students all see themselves in the books and resources in her classroom.
Years after graduating, a former student reached out to Bolling. “I want you to know that YOU had a HUGE influence on us all,” the student wrote. “Having a Black woman as a teacher and role model early on in our lives… brought attention to topics that we would have never addressed.”
Bolling, who is the author of several children’s books, was also this year’s recipient of the CEA Susan B. Anthony–Prudence Crandall Equality Award.
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