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Becoming the Teacher

A Step Up With The Student Program

As a seasoned Student Program leader, Kali Davis, 28, did what she does best—stepped up, organized, and conquered—when the president of the Florida Education Association (FEA) asked her to serve as the 2015 NEA host committee chair for the Representative Assembly in Orlando. “About a third” of Davis’ volunteers were under age 35, part of her plan to bring them together with NEA’s veteran teachers and retired members. The result: “It was really cool,” says Davis, a bubbly fifth-year, elementary school teacher who is now a literacy coach at Melrose Elementary, a Title 1 school in Florida.

THE CALL TO TEACH: It was definitely in high school. Having good teachers who really cared about me as a person and kept teaching engaging, really made me want to become a teacher. I was able to lean on them. I wanted to be that kind of teacher for other kids. I realized that there were so many kids out there who didn’t have the things that I had growing up and if they could have teachers like I had, then they would really benefit.

PASSION AND CHALLENGE: I knew that I wanted to teach in an area that was very high need and with at-risk kids. I did several internships with very good teachers who were able to model best practices. The work is so rewarding, although I probably have more challenging days than rewarding ones. But I just love connecting with the students—they need somebody who believes in them and who is consistent. I enjoy being that person for them.

IT ALL STARTED HERE: I remember I got an email that said we’re having an FEA meeting. And I thought ‘Future Educators of America, I should totally join that.’ But I learned that it was actually the Florida Education Association and it was a teacher’s union. Oh, my gosh, joining the Student Program was the best decision I ever made.

BENEFITS OF A SPRINGBOARD: The success I have in my career today definitely comes from being involved with the Student Program. I felt like I really had a support system even when I was still in college or in my internships. The networking opportunities were a huge piece. Being involved gave me the information that I needed to know what was happening in my profession. Then I found the NEA, an organization that was all about helping the students, and at the same time, helping teachers and student teachers grow professionally, and be successful so that kids can be successful.

IT WORKED FOR ME: Take advantage of every opportunity to learn from the teachers that you observe while you’re in your internships. And finally, join and build your network and your support system through the union. It’s a safe place to ask questions and get support.

President’s Leadership Roots and Relationships Stem from the Kentucky Education Association Student Program

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