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Greatest Governor and Top Teacher Speak Out

A day of inspiration and hard work


By Alain Jehlen

The greatest governor exhorted them.

The teacher of the year inspired them.

And their president involved them in a cell-phone campaign to save educator jobs.

Meanwhile, RA delegates tackled a packed agenda of 99 new business items and completed the NEA’s legislative program to set the course for America’s largest organization of educators in the challenging year ahead.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, winner of the NEA’s Greatest Education Governor award this year, reminded the delegates of how much is at stake in the 37 governor’s races this fall—one of which is his. “Ask our friends here from New Jersey whether governor’s races make a difference,” he said.

The award is presented to a governor who has made major efforts to improve public education. O’Malley took office in 2007, just months before the nation plunged into a deep recession, but he has authorized the funding necessary to make great strides in closing the achievement gap.

"It’s the responsibility of those of us in government to stand by you, and to give you the tools, resources and support that you need so that our students succeed in the classroom,” O’Malley told the delegates.

Teacher of the year Sara Brown Wessling of Iowa said we need schools “where students thrive because of the system, not in spite of it,” and then described what such a school looks and sounds like.

“Do you see rows firmly set, keeping teachers and students divided? Do you hear the silence of a well-ordered room? Do you feel the weight of standardized tests and the eyes of naïve critics?” she asked. 

Or do you see the stacks of books and magazines; student work, like wrapping paper, on the walls? Do you hear the productive whir of students, slightly frustrated and compelled to achieve understanding? 

Executive Committee Member Christy Levings, chair of the ESEA Advisory Committee, presented the committee’s report and described the work of NEA in rallying members and friends of education for the high-priority, high-intensity campaign to change the law.

After she finished, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel asked delegates to text “SPEAKUP” (no space between the two words) to 77007. That connects the texter with NEA’s grassroots effort on jobs and ESEA.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to influence the debate in Washington,” he said. “We have banded together before to grab victory from the jaws of defeat… We need to be able to count you in and count on you when we need to take action. More importantly, we need for you each to become neighborhood advocates for public education.”

In balloting, delegates adopted five constitutional amendments including the “Gateway” amendment that lets any active member of a state Association be a member of NEA as well.

The runoff election for Board of Directors ESP At-Large member ended in a squeaker with James Ojeda defeating Melinda Smith 3896 to 3804.


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