Emotions like excitement, passion, and enthusiasm along with ideas like teacher professionalism, student-centered leadership, and association organizing are on full display at the National Education Association’s Representative Assembly (NEA RA ) attended by 9,000 delegates, including 129 from Connecticut.
Educators are the “decisive element” in the lives of millions of students who face daunting challenges every day, Sean McComb, the 2014 National Teacher of the Year, said in his speech to the NEA RA this weekend. McComb is an English teacher at Patapsco High School & Center for the Arts in Baltimore County.
“I’m proud to be a teacher, a hope developer. Across this country, children look to their teachers… to give students a belief in themselves; to give them the skills to have agency to make it reality.,” McComb said. “That is what called me, like so many teachers, into this field, to be that decisive element in the classroom.”
In his speech to the NEA RA, NEA Executive Director John Stocks urged the delegates to take a page from the playbook of public education’s main adversaries and lay the groundwork for a focused, effective and relentless campaign to make our schools stronger.
Stocks explained that student-centered leadership is essential to safeguard education for future generations. And where can we find models for this leadership? Look no further than the dedicated and successful educator activists in the hall today, Stocks said.
“So we have a formula for student success,” Stocks said. In order for this formula to work, it requires union leaders to put students at the center of everything our schools do.
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel delivered his final keynote speech with a passionate and stirring exhortation for educators to lead the movement to bring equity and excellence to the nation’s schools. Success in ridding the system of high-stakes testing and the influence of corporate reformers, creating higher standards, and building a quality workforce will depend on nothing less, Van Roekel told the assembly.
In elections at the NEA RA, delegates decided a team of women will lead the Association. Lily Eskelsen García, a former Utah Teacher of the Year who started her 20-year career in education as a food service worker before becoming an elementary teacher who worked with homeless children, was elected to head the 3 million-member NEA. Eskelsen García previously served two three-year terms as NEA vice president and was named by President Obama to serve as a commissioner on the White House Commission on Education Excellence for Hispanics.
Delegates also elected Rebecca S. “Becky” Pringle, a middle school physical science teacher from Harrisburg, Pa., as NEA vice president. Pringle, now one of the highest-ranking African-American female leaders in the labor movement, previously served two three-year terms as NEA secretary-treasurer.
Rounding out the top three NEA leadership positions, Princess Moss was elected secretary-treasurer.
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