Outstanding underclassmen bring a lot to the team—and now they’re being recognized for it. If you ask J. D. (Jeffery) Miller, winner of the 2007 Outstanding State Rookie Award, what the NEA Student Program means to him, this reserved Indiana State University (ISU) sophomore pipes right up.
An active member of the NEA Student Program since his freshman year, Miller can’t say enough about why he believes all students majoring in education or just interested in an ed minor should join.
When Miller first joined the group at ISU, there were only four members. With a laugh, he adds: “That meant that all of us became officers.” Miller was elected VP and was soon on his way to becoming an MVP in his local chapter. Today the group has 100 members.
“Where the ISU NEA Student program is different from a lot of other college organizations is that we don’t have meetings,” Miller says. “Instead, we have community service activities, workshops on things like making college affordable, professional development, classroom discipline, networking skills —all things that we are going to need once we get out there in the teaching world.”
Jana Wofford, winner of the Outstanding Local Rookie Award and a senior at Tennessee State, joined her school’s Student NEA Program because she was looking for an organization to get involved with. Especially one that would help her with her goal of becoming a second- or third-grade teacher. “I had been active in the Future Educators club in high school, so I figured that Student NEA would be a good fit.”
Wofford found the fit to be perfect. Today, she is co-president of her chapter and Middle Tennessee vice-president. “Not only did the organization teach me a lot of things that can’t be learned in school, it gave me a way to get very involved in the community.
“Besides professional development activities such as classroom management techniques, free professional publications, and scholarship opportunities, we get to work with local schools—with kids just like those we’re going to teach—on things like NEA’s Read Across America, food and clothing drives, and child care activities.”
Both Miller and Wofford say they have learned that being a good teacher involves “way more than lesson plans. They’re super important, but whether a child has a warm coat to wear in the winter or a decent breakfast can affect whether he or she can learn.”
Miller says: “Being with a group of like-minded peers who have the same goals and aspirations you do leads to great discussions about how you would handle certain students and classroom challenges and is an education in itself. And the people you’re having those discussions with, well, I know they are going to be lifelong friends.”
Are you the next Rookie of the Year?
The Rookie Awards, which the Student NEA Program established in 2007 to recognize college freshmen and sophomores for outstanding contributions to their local chapters, work like this:
Anyone—from students to faculty advisers—in a local Student NEA Program can nominate candidates with a one- to two-page essay that highlights the student’s impact on the local chapter; participation in professional development activities; impact on members and the community; and qualities that set him or her apart from his or her peers. Two additional letters of recommendation are required. Winners are selected by their peers.