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Massachusetts Delegate Attends 60th NEA Representative Assembly

At 98 years old, Kathleen Roberts has been attending NEA's Representative Assembly since 1950.

Sixty years. It’s a significant number in the world of anniversaries, whether celebrating a marriage or the number of years on the job. But for NEA’s 92nd Representative Assembly (RA) in Atlanta, 60 represents the number of annual meetings Kathleen Roberts, a delegate from Massachusetts, has attended.

She attended her first RA in 1950, when it was held in St. Louis, MO. Roberts, who will turn 99 this year, recalled the RAs of the past were "nothing like this,” explaining that 60 years ago NEA leadership did all of the talking while delegates sat and listened. “It’s evolved over time,” she said.

“We were there, but [leadership] controlled it. It’s better now,” explaining how delegates now have a stronger voice in setting the Association’s policy.

Throughout her years attending the NEA’s annual meetings, Roberts’ most memorable moments include being kissed by Vice President Joe Biden in 2012 and the historic vote to merge with the American Teachers Association in 1966.

As a veteran RA attendee, her advice to first time delegates: “Take an active role in your local [association]. You’ll find that it really helps.”

Roberts began her teaching career in the midst of the Great Depression. Employment was hard to come by so Roberts left her home state of Massachusetts and headed to Vermont in 1937 to begin her career as an 8th grade teacher. She taught in a one-room school and boarded at a farm house with a local family. Roberts earned a salary of $14 a week during the school year.

She eventually made her way back to Massachusetts where she spent the next 47 years teaching 8th grade for the Dartmouth and Raynham school districts.

Since her return, Roberts has been an active member of the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA). She has held several leadership roles, including president of MTA in 1971 and 1972, as well as local president of the current Bridgewater-Raynham Education Association.

She now is retired and spends her time within the Raynham school district as a volunteer.


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