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Inspiration key theme as teachers in training kick off conference

Students remember a friend; learn how they can make a difference

NEW ORLEANS - June 26, 2010 -

Hundreds of students preparing to be teachers gathered Saturday evening to hear inspiring words from freedom writer Manuel V. Scott as the National Education Association (NEA) Student Program’s annual conference began here. They also paid special tribute to one of their own, student teacher-leader Jeffrey “JD” Miller, who passed away last fall. 

The group is meeting over the next four days to collaborate on community projects, attend workshops, and elect new leaders. “This is our time to meet, grow, network, and get inspired about teaching,” said R. Jermaine Coleman, chairperson of NEA’s Student Program.

As the opening session got underway, students heard from Manuel V. Scott, whose story was told in the 2007 film, Freedom Writers.  When Scott was a teenager, his language skills were so poor that he qualified for English as a Second Language (ESL) courses.  He now holds a master’s degree, and is working toward a Ph.D. in International Relations.  He credits much of his academic turnaround to his high school English teacher Erin Gruwell, who was portrayed in the film by two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank.

 “One single act by a teacher can change the trajectory of an entire life,” said Scott.

The students also used the evening to honor their friend Jeffrey “JD” Miller, who had received the NEA Student Program’s “Outstanding Rookie of the Year” award two years ago. Miller, who died in December 2009 after battling non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, was honored posthumously. The award he received back in 2008 will now be called “The Jeffrey “JD” Miller Outstanding Rookie of the Year” award. Miller also received the “Carol Stowe Humanitarian Award” this evening.    

“We greatly miss JD and hope to honor his memory, and the legacy of his leadership, with these awards,” said Coleman.  “This evening served as a reminder that inspiration starts from within, and we hope all of our members will take this message with them as they enter our nation’s classrooms.”

In addition to attending workshops and electing new officers, the students will join in the annual “Outreach to Teach” community service project to help renovate Belle Chasse High School in Plaquemines Parish.

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional organization, representing
3.2  million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Laila Hirschfeld (202) 822-7823,