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Final Day of NEA Representative Assembly Showcases Educators Creating Opportunity

Educators pay tribute to the Teacher of the Year and to Executive Director John I. Wilson

July 05, 2011
By Will Potter

Collaboration is the key to success in public education, and the NEA Priority Schools Campaign has been at the forefront of bringing educators, administrators, and parents together to transform schools.

This hard work often goes unrecognized. But on the final day of the 2011 NEA Representative Assembly in Chicago, examples of these innovative approaches to education reform were highlighted before 8,000 NEA delegates.

Des Moines Education Association President Melissa Spencer discussed recent success at North High School, a NEA Priority School site. With help from a federal School Improvement Grant, and teachers’ voices in the discussion, Spencer said “we went from dead-last place in our state assessments to the number two position in just under a year.”

The importance of collaboration was also echoed by national Teacher of the Year Michelle Shearer and NEA member, who recognized the difficulties that educators face every day, and the toll it takes on them personally. Though the attack on teachers and public schools have deflated morale, “We have to find ways to stand strong for our students,” she said.

She asked the delegation: “How long will we continue to envy other countries and how they respect their teachers… before we start to do it here?”

(Please visit Shearer’s profile on Classroom Superheroes, and leave a comment supporting her work!)

NEA members paid tribute on Sunday to another one of their own, who has championed these issues and many others throughout his career. Since coming to NEA, John Wilson has fought for a minimum salary of $40,000 for every teacher and a living wage for Education Support Professionals (ESP).  He also launched an NEA initiative to engage the best teachers in sharing ideas on staffing high-poverty, low achieving schools with the most accomplished teachers, and chaired the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

Wilson, a long-time special education teacher, will step down as executive director of the National Education Association in September to be replaced by Deputy Executive Director John Stocks. But Wilson, who was surrounded on stage by family and friends, told cheering delegates he won’t stop fighting for students.

“Bureaucrats and politicians need to stop spending so much precious time and energy on the 1-2% of teachers who need to be in a different careers,” he said, “and start supporting the 98% of teachers in America who put their students first every day that they enter the classroom.”

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