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President, National Education Association

Dennis Van Roekel

Dennis Van RoekelDennis Van Roekel is president of the National Education Association, which represents more than 3 million public school employees. As NEA president, he leads the nation’s largest labor union and advocate for quality public schools.

Van Roekel is committed to improving student learning and enhancing the professionalism of education employees, which he believes go hand-in-hand. In 2010, he established the Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching, a national, independent panel that examined policies and practices governing the teaching profession. With the Commission’s input, NEA unveiled its “Leading the Profession” three-point plan in December 2011. The bold agenda incorporates proven best practices from thousands of leading teachers from around the country — its main components are raising the bar for entry, teachers ensuring teacher quality, and union leadership to transform the profession.

In leading the Association, Van Roekel is guided by NEA’s mission: to fulfill the promise of public education and ensure that every child in America, regardless of family income or place of residence, receives a quality education. He is a member of the US Department of Education’s Equity and Excellence Commission, which is tasked with studying, and recommending solutions to, inequitable school finance systems and their effect on student achievement.

A recognized leader on education issues, he has testified before Congress on ESEA reauthorization and federal education policy, ensuring the voices of educators are at the forefront of critical decision-making. He serves as vice president of Education International for North America and the Caribbean, pursuing a common course of action on issues like collective bargaining, raising student achievement, and adequate funding that resonate around the world.  He also serves on leading boards, including the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Executive Committee and the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education Executive Board.

Van Roekel has been the invited speaker at numerous forums and national summits sponsored by the Coalition for Community Schools, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Council of Chief State School Officers, and Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and a frequent invited guest at the White House. He has discussed education issues with leading publications and networks, including C-Span, MSNBC, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Education Week, and TIME.

A longtime activist for children and public education, Van Roekel taught high school mathematics in Phoenix for 23 years. He served two terms as NEA Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer, and has held key positions in all levels of the Association, including Arizona Education Association President and Paradise Valley Education Association President. 

Van Roekel earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Iowa in Iowa City and a master’s degree in math education from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

Last Updated: February 2012