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2013 Rosena J. Willis Memorial Award (State Award)

MISSOURI NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION

Ever since its historic merger with the American Teachers Association (ATA), the National Education Association has worked to ensure that the full participation of minority members in the Association's programs and decision-making not be left to chance. NEA has provided minority training for minority members, and it has established for state associations an equal opportunity goal—3-1 (g)—for minority member participation in the NEA Representative Assembly and Board of Directors.

Missouri NEA's record of pursuing equal opportunity both within the Association and its state is exemplary.

For the last 17 years, Missouri NEA (MNEA) has achieved its 3-1 (g) goal at the NEA Representative Assembly and for the past three years, at Missouri NEA’s Fall and Spring Representative Assemblies. Success in meeting these goals is largely due to the MNEA Human Rights Committee as well as MNEA's leaders and local association “owning” their 3-1 (g) plan. What’s more, MNEA has a tradition of sending participants to both the NEA Minority Leadership Training Program and the NEA Women's Leadership Training Program. In addition, MNEA offers a yearly in-state Women's Leadership Training Program, in collaboration with NEA. Also, MNEA has Future Leaders’ Academy, a year-long training opportunity that engages participants in deep association involvement and network opportunities, and the Academy guarantees minority member participation.

When the Missouri State Department of Education developed a new teacher evaluation system, MNEA advocated for a teaching standard for cultural competency. What resulted were standards calling for learning experiences with "diverse social and cultural perspectives" and "learning opportunities that are adapted to diverse learners."

MNEA's advocacy for human and civil rights has enabled it to form working coalitions with other groups that support social justice issues. And when Missouri billionaire Rex Sinquefield, a big funder of conservative G.O.P. politicians in the state suggested in a speech that public education was "a Ku Klux Klan plot to ruin the lives of Black children," MNEA President Chris Guinther took him to task. He recanted the next day.

Missouri NEA has created a statewide educator training program for bullying prevention called No MOre Bullying. The training encourages "a whole school" approach to bullying prevention, emphasizing that educators, administrators, parents and communities working together can end bullying. And while MNEA's initiative pre-dates NEA’s Bully Free: It Starts With Me campaign, MNEA has been an enthusiastic supporter of NEA's campaign and has encouraged its members to take the NEA Bully-Free It Starts With Me pledge.

It is one thing to espouse the core values of equal opportunity and social justice and entirely another to put those values into practice. Quite fittingly, Missouri NEA from the "Show Me State" has shown us all how it can be done.

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