The NEA In New Orleans

Deb Rothar

On January 25-27th, 2019, the National Education Association (NEA) held the Minority Leadership and Women’s Leadership Training Programs Seminar in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The purpose of the seminar is to train educators to be effective advocates for their profession. Members received training in engaging our members and our communities in discussions relating to social, racial, and economic justice issues.  Sessions addressed topics such as Institutional Racism, Cultural Competence in Education, and Developing Community Partnerships.

My first formal session was Organizing 101 - Training for Field Volunteers.  We discussed building relationships within our communities and participated in role-playing activities to prepare us for one on one conversations about issues affecting education.  The session was fun and informative and a great way to break the ice with the other educators who had travelled near and far to attend. Later that evening, we heard from Lily Eskelsen Garcia (NEA President) and Rebecca Pringle (NEA Vice President).  Both woman had a message of pride and resilience in the face of attacks against public education. Emboldened and uplifting, both women stressed resistance against those seeking to privatize education and impose meaningless testing on our students. Throughout the conference, participants were encouraged to explore the Stonewall Commemoration Exhibit, honoring the Stonewall Uprising of 1969, regarded as the first major LGBTQ protest, setting off the modern LGBTQ Civil Rights movement.

The following day I boarded a bus and headed to Baton Rouge, Louisiana for a day of field experience, canvassing the area with the Louisiana Association of Educators, as well as other educators from all along the East Coast.  During this time, we spoke to community members about educational issues, including the low pay for Louisiana Teachers and SRPs, teacher morale, and allocation of property taxes for school funding. Throughout the day, I was inspired by the spirit of unity LAE teachers maintained as they solicited feedback, engaged in constructive dialogue, and found commonality with residents hopeful that positive change could happen.

A tremendous Thank You to the NYSUT Women’s Committee, who asked me to participate in this seminar.  Involvement in our union on the local and state level has given me the opportunity to do meaningful work in an area that I am passionate about.  As part of the union, I believe that we have a responsibility to help others through social justice initiatives. It is not just about us, but about helping the greater good.  I am grateful to have been a part of this and look forward to continuing with the work.