That's Our Reg
NEA's President Has Traveled Far Without Losing His Way
Reg Weaver, my friend and president of the National Education Association (NEA), once said: "Success is not a measure of where we are or what we have become. Rather, the measure of success is how far we have come to get to where we are."
I like that. By his definition of success, I would say that Reg is about as successful as a person could ever hope to be.
As our schools commemorated the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on January 21, and as they study about the lives of outstanding Black men and women during Black History Month, which is celebrated annually in the U.S. and Canada in February, I always think of my friend, "Reggie."
Hard Work Pays Off
He is history in the making. It might not seem so, being based in Washington, D.C. at NEA headquarters. But he has come a long way to get there.
Reg attended schools in Danville, Illinois. As a student, a counselor once told him that he would not likely ever do more than manual labor. Reg didn't let that pessimism stand in his way. He earned a bachelor's degree in special education for the physically challenged from Illinois State University, and a master's from Roosevelt University in Chicago.
Reg worked his way to the top of the education field by first serving 30 years as a middle school science teacher. During that time, he was president of his local Association in Harvey, Illinois, and president of the Illinois Education Association (IEA). He is now in his second term as NEA president.
Reg has worked hard to improve public schools in the U.S. and abroad. I'm particularly taken with his stint as vice president of Education International, a 348-member organization representing more than 29 million teachers and educators in 69 countries. This is a long way from Danville.
But the most fascinating thing about this man is that he's as comfortable standing before a U.S. Congress committee fighting for school funding or talking with the president at the White House, as he is reading Dr. Seuss to a kindergarten class or sitting at a Formica table having a plate of fried catfish with a group of school employees.
The Common Touch
Reg always amazes me with his people skills. For example, he never fails to speak to me and call me by name no matter where he is or how busy. He has a personal relationship with many of us ESPs (education support professionals). If you've ever been to the gala dinner at an ESP national conference when Reg is the emcee, you will know how much affection and admiration ESPs have for their NEA president. The applause is deafening.
Same with teachers, retirees and student members. Somehow, some way, Reg connects with every sector of the vastly diverse NEA membership. That can't be easy. But that's our Reg.
(Dave Arnold, a member of the Illinois Education Association, is a custodian at Brownstown Elementary School in Southern Illinois. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NEA or its affiliates.
Dave Arnold: This school custodian and former Illinois Education Association ESP of the Year is a published poet. But most Association members know him best from the editorials -- Dave's View --