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Former Executive Director, National Education Association

John Wilson

Our Leaders

John I. Wilson, a long-time special education teacher and Association leader, became executive director of the National Education Association on November 1, 2000. The nation's largest teachers union, NEA also represents education support professionals, higher education faculty, school administrators, retired educators, and education students who plan to become teachers. In all, NEA has 3.3 million members, a staff of 555, and an annual budget exceeding $300 million.

Since coming to NEA, Wilson has championed 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. 

Wilson has chaired the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a coalition of 33 businesses and education groups that advocates for every child in America to graduate from high school with 21st century skills. The 3E Institute presented him with the Educator 500 President’s Award in 2006 for being “a true entrepreneurial educator.” Wilson has also chaired the Learning First Alliance, a partnership of 18 leading education organizations with more than 10 million members dedicated to improving student learning in America’s public schools.

Prior to assuming the highest staff position at NEA headquarters, Wilson served the Association as president and executive director of the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE). With Wilson at the helm of this NEA state affiliate, NCAE strengthened teacher training systems, professional development programs, teacher compensation, and teacher recruitment. His accomplishments include the development of new support systems for teachers pursuing certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. As a result, today North Carolina has more National Board-certified teachers and candidates than any other state. In addition, Wilson led a successful campaign that raised North Carolina teacher salaries from 43rd to 23rd in the nation, and he helped establish the North Carolina Teacher Academy, a state-funded program that provides high-quality teacher professional development.

Wilson has been an NEA activist since his days at Western Carolina University, where he served as president of the NEA student chapter. As a middle school teacher of special needs students, Wilson was an active Association leader throughout his 20-year teaching career. He served as president of the Raleigh Association of Classroom Teachers and the Wake County Association of Classroom Teachers, and also served on the NEA Board of Directors and the NEA Executive Committee.

A true North Carolinian, Wilson was born in Burlington, North Carolina. He graduated with a bachelor of science degree in education and received a master's degree in education from the University of North Carolina.

Wilson loves mystery novels and is a voracious reader. He "lives and breathes politics" and is an avid Tar Heel fan.