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NEA President addresses Hispanic elected officials, policy experts and community leaders

Van Roekel highlights NEA initiatives aimed at creating great public schools for all students

WASHINGTON - September 13, 2010 -

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel today addressed the 2010 Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Public Policy Conference. His remarks kicked off Hispanic Awareness Month. Van Roekel thanked Hispanic Congressional leaders for their commitment to strengthening America’s public schools, and he highlighted NEA’s own work to improve education for all students, including English Language Learners. He also outlined NEA’s multimillion dollar, six-year Priority Schools Campaign that is transforming schools most in need of improvement.

“NEA is proud to be working with the Hispanic community to make education a national priority,” said Van Roekel. “Together, we can make certain that every student has access to a great public school and an affordable college education.”

       Hispanics are the largest minority group in this country, and about one out of every five public school students—10 million children—are Hispanic, and approximately half of them are also English Language Learners.      

The Association has been working to break down language and cultural barriers through its English Language Learners initiative. The initiative is helping teachers understand that students can learn in their first language even as they work to become fluent in English, while emphasizing the need to respect a student’s home language and cultural heritage.      

“I believe this is the best training program for teachers of English Language Learner students,” said Van Roekel. “We have to train teachers in the best ways to reach, inspire and teach these students.”      

Van Roekel also highlighted the Association’s multiyear national Priority Schools Campaign, which aims to engage and empower NEA members to transform schools that are most in need of improvement. The campaign goes hand in hand with the Obama administration’s School Improvement Grants (SIG) initiative. SIG provides states and school districts grants to turn around schools identified as most in need of improvement.      

“We are rolling up our sleeves and working with our partners to create real and lasting change that will transform the lives of today’s students who will become leaders and workers for our future,” said Van Roekel.   In fact, this campaign already is yielding results. In Putnam City West High School in Oklahoma, a strategic combination of targeted academic support, more parental involvement, and better professional development has test scores soaring and graduation rates surging; last year, the number of graduating Hispanic seniors rose by nearly 70 percent.      

 In Denver, the local NEA affiliate is collaborating with management to create new ways of doing business. Denver’s Math and Science Leadership Academy (MSLA) is a union-designed, teacher-led public school that is making a difference for urban students within the Denver Public School System. Van Roekel toured MSLA during a nationwide back-to-school tour in late August that highlighted innovative educators and Association-sponsored programs throughout the country.      

Van Roekel delivered his remarks to Hispanic elected officials, corporate executives, policy experts, community leaders and academic scholars gathered for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s annual public policy conference. NEA is a major sponsor of the event. Each September, the Hispanic community convenes in Washington, D.C., to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Since 1980, CHCI has used this opportunity to bring Hispanic leaders together to discuss issues of importance to the community.    


For more information about how NEA is marking Hispanic Awareness Month and to help educators learn more about Hispanic history, culture and education, please visit

For more information about NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign, please visit: 

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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: Miguel A. Gonzalez  (202) 822-7823,