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Press Release

Remarks as prepared for delivery by Juliana Urtubey, 2021 National Teacher of the Year, to the 100th NEA Representative Assembly

Urtubey: It takes a village to make sure a child is well taken care of, loved, feels seen, and is encouraged to be their very best
Published: 07/02/2021

Hello, My name is Juliana Urtubey and I’m the 2021 national teacher of the year. I am so excited to be here today with the NEA for the annual conference and the representative assembly.

It’s a really exciting opportunity to reflect on the work that we do. The collaborative nature of the work that we do, that is the key ingredient in a child’s education being one where they can thrive.

Thank you to all the people who work to build a better future for our children and not just for children, but for families and communities as well. The work everybody here does is critical to the transformation of a learner’s journey.

I would like for us to pause and think of the day in a child’s shoes. From the time they put on those shoes before coming to school, to the time they take off those shoes once they get home form school. Think of all the adults that that child interacts with directly and indirectly to make their education possible. Each one of these moving critical pieces of a child’s education is so important because it takes a village to be able to make sure that a child is well taken care of, and loved, feels seen, and is encouraged to be their very best.

I’d like to acknowledge the collective resilience within the educational community. It has been a very difficult year and a half and through Covid, some of the things that I have learned are that family partnerships are indispensable to a thriving community. We need family partnerships within educational spaces so that our children get to be themselves sin school. If I as a teacher know who their family is, if they appreciate the time and the trust that I have built with their family, a child is most likely going to entrust their learning and emotional safety with me. The resilience that we’ve built through partnering with families is only possible through our interdependence in school.

I think about all the adults that I collaborate with, all the adults that inspire me on my school campus. I think about Lasandra, our custodian, and how she shared with me that during Covid she felt sad because she knew that our school because of her hard work was always clean, and that for some of our students this is the one time of day that they get to spend in a completely clean environment. I think about Jacquie our cafeteria worker who ensures that every child not only has a warm meal but has their favorite milk to go with that warm meal. I think about miss Kenya in the front office who if we’re ever struggling to communicate with a child’s family, she knows where they live in the neighborhood, she knows somebody, and she knows that family in and out, and the families trust her. I think about my fellow teachers, administrators, all the critical people within education who help build a better future. If all these people that have made this year possible.

I think about how brave our students have been during this last year, I remember in February when we physically opened our schools and welcomed back our students back on campus. I was standing at the end of a very long hallway, and I just remember seeing the doors open, and six feet apart, my students walking in. They looked so brave with their masks and their backpacks on and I just got chills that ran up my body because I realized this is what it means to be a part of a school. Being a part of a school is what the children are waiting for at the other end of the hallway, for their opportunity to learn and grow with their peers, to connect with their community, and I couldn’t have been prouder to be an educator than on that day.

I’d like to share a little bit about my platform this year which I entitle, a joyous and just education. I believe a joyous and just education should be something that every child experiences. A joyous and just education is a collective community embrace. By joyous we mean that all students have a deep sense of belonging in their schools, because those schools know who they are, because we uplift their strengths, their culture, their linguistic gifts. We uplift their interests and their interdependence on each other. And by just I mean that we are all working collectively to identify areas of inequities and of barriers of access that we are working creatively and with a whole lot of love to make space more accessible, better places to learn, place where education can transform people’s lives.

Again, I am here with you for this journey of building a better and brighter future for us all.   Form the bottom of my heart I think the hard work of all the folks today attending this wonderful conference know that your work of setting a path forward, of setting a critical focus for the NEA is so important and it impacts the lives of countless students across the country.

So, thank you for your hard work, thank you for your resilience, and thank you for your collective collaboration in building bridges form schools to communities. From schools to families. And I hope that 2021 is the year of a joyous and just education for all, thank you.

(View the video here:  Visit for more information on the Teacher of the Year)

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National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.