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Vice President, National Education Association

Lily Eskelsen García

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Lily Eskelsen García (Lily_NEA on Twitter) is a sixth-grade teacher from Utah and Vice President of the over 3 million-member National Education Association.

She began her career in education as a school lunch lady, became a kindergarten aide and was encouraged by the teacher to go to college and become a teacher herself. She worked her way through the University of Utah on scholarships, student loans, and as a starving folk singer, graduating magna cum laude in elementary education and later earning her master’s degree in instructional technology.

After teaching only nine years, Lily was named Utah Teacher of the Year for her work as an elementary teacher. She worked with homeless children and gifted children; as a mentor for student teachers; and as a peer assistance team leader in the suburbs of Salt Lake City where she taught at Orchard Elementary School.

In 1998 she attempted to put her 20 years of experience working with small children to practical use by becoming her party’s nominee for the U.S. Congress. The rookie effort didn’t work out. Yet by any measure, she made her mark: she was the first Hispanic to run for Congress in her state and earned 45 percent of the vote against the incumbent. Today, she is one of the highest-ranking labor leaders in the country and one of its most influential Hispanic educators.

She has served as president of the Utah Education Association; as president of the Utah State Retirement System; as president of the Children at Risk Foundation; and was named by President Obama to serve as a commissioner on the White House Commission on Education Excellence for Hispanics.

Lily writes a blog, “Lily’s Blackboard,” covering the latest education issues. Her advice has been published in Parenting magazine and she has been featured on MSNBC, CNN en Español and as the noble opposition on Fox & Friends. She has been the invited keynote speaker for hundreds of education events in virtually every state, earning her recognition by Education World in their “Best Conference Speakers” edition.

Lily believes that no matter how students arrive, no matter what their learning conditions, their home conditions or their health conditions, that educators have the sacred duty to be professionals and to care for the whole student - mind, body and character. And she believes that professionalism carries the responsibility to take action, individually and collectively, to fight to make the promise of public education a reality and to prepare the whole and happy child to succeed in becoming a whole and happy adult.