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Educators Leave Representative Assembly Committed to Leading the Profession

If public education is to remain a basic right for every child, rather than a privilege for only the wealthy, educators will have to lead their profession not just in their schools but in their communities and in political campaigns. That was the recurring message from President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Teacher of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki, and the more than 8,000 educators at the 2012 National Education Association (NEA) Representative Assembly, which ended deliberations today.

The Representative Assembly is the largest democratic decision-making body in the world. Nearly 8,000 educators gathered in Washington, DC to determine education policy for the nation’s largest union. They also gathered to hear from leaders in politics and education, and to honor their colleagues.

2012 National Teacher of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki spoke about the power teachers have to shape and transform the lives of their students.

An English teacher at Luther Burbank Middle School in Burbank, Calif., Mieliwocki told delegates she is proud to represent teachers. “So here I stand, one teacher symbolizing millions,” she said. “One imperfect, enthusiastic, hard-working and committed example of the millions more just like me. One voice to stand for all of us…”

Judy Near, an elementary school health technician from Colorado, is NEA’s Education Support Professional of the Year. Near urged educators to take control of their profession through leadership roles. “To lead you just need a vision, hope, and inner strength to believe you can change things," Near said.

NEA Executive Director John Stocks delivered his first address as executive director, challenging educators to become “social justice patriots.”

Gov. Mark Dayton of Minnesota received the “Greatest Governor” Award. The annual award recognizes and honors governors who have made major, state-level education strides that improve public schools.
“I am very honored to receive this award from educators across America,” said Gov. Dayton. “As a former public school teacher, I know how challenging their jobs are. I promised that my administration would make education and jobs my highest priorities.”

Educators also heard from President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who said that Governor Mitt Romney’s attacks on teachers and public education are fundamentally an attack on the middle class.

Romney’s vision of education is a system that only benefits the richest Americans, Obama said. But the power of public education is its potential for personal growth and collective progress.
“You can’t help the American people,” he said, “without helping education.”


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