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Dennis Van Roekel’s Back-to-School Tour Travel Log

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel is headed back to school!

This August, Pres. Van Roekel, a veteran math teacher from Arizona, is conducting a nationwide back-to-school tour. He is visiting schools and meeting with key education stakeholders throughout America to deliver a simple, powerful message—all students deserve access to a quality public education. Check out Pres. Van Roekel's daily travel log entries from the road—and share your own thoughts!

Deep in the Heart of Texas

August 28, 2010  

By Dennis Van Roekel, NEA President   
It’s Friday and the last day of our 2010 Back-to-School tour. The weather forecast is calling for a temperature of 97 degrees in San Antonio today. But this morning at 6 a.m., as I leave for Highland Park Elementary, it’s dark and cool. Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) President Rita Haecker, San Antonio Alliance Teacher Support Personnel President Shelley Potter, and Alliance Executive Vice President Gracie Oviedo greeted me at Highland Park.  

Principal Manuel Caballero, known as “Mr. C” to students and staff, welcomed me to the 97-year-old school house for pre-K through fifth grade students. It was just day five of the new school year for Highland Park, and it was amazing to see how much the young pre-K students had already learned. Read more...

Spreading Some Sunshine in Florida

August 27, 2010

By Dennis Van Roekel, NEA President

We’re in the homestretch – Tampa was Thursday, San Antonio and Austin Friday, and then back home. I’ve seen and learned a lot this week. Mostly though, I’ve been inspired by the passion and enthusiasm of our members – even in light of the countless challenges they face. Throughout the week, I’ve been saying that while many view this as a difficult time for public education, I see this as a time that is ripe with opportunities for us to positively shape and impact the future for our students and the nation.

Thursday was mostly about our members. I started out meeting with local presidents from the Tampa Bay area. This short trip doesn’t allow much time to meet directly with members, so I wanted to talk to local leaders to listen to what they are hearing from members. Read more...

First-Day Jitters and Service Learning in the Buckeye State

August 25, 2010

By Dennis Van Roekel, NEA President

Another day and more schools where NEA members doing exciting work.  Today was the first day of school in Columbus, Ohio and what a great day to be in the Buckeye State. In addition to the first day of school, folks in Ohio are celebrating Tuesday’s announcement that they are among the states selected for round two Race to the Top grants. Ohio Education Association (OEA) President Patricia Frost-Brooks and Columbus Education Association (CEA) President Rhonda Johnson met me bright and early at West High School where we spent some time talking to OEA members before they rushed off to meet and greet students for the new school year.

I arrived at South Mifflin STEM Academy K-6 just in time to see parents dropping off students for that exciting first day of school. Read more...

Getting Excited (And a Little Lost) in Missouri

August 25, 2010

By Dennis Van Roekel, NEA President

Tuesday was a long, but rewarding day. No chef's hats to wear, but a couple of great T-shirts – I especially like my “Columbia Public Schools Rock!” T-shirt. 

The day started early, just as it does for NEA members all across the country.  I had a great meeting with members of the Columbia Missouri National Education Association (CMNEA) at West Junior High School.  Many of them had to take release time in order to meet with me, and I know what a sacrifice it is to be away from schools and classrooms this time of the year, so I’m grateful to all of them for taking the time to meet.

This is such an exciting time of year for our profession.  We meet new students and as we get to know each of them, we wonder which of them will grow up to be a world-renown surgeon, a police officer who saves lives, or even President of the United States. Read more...

Teacher-Led School on Path to Excellence

August 23, 2010

By Dennis Van Roekel, NEA President

Denver’s Math & Science Learning Academy (MSLA) was the next stop on NEA’s 2010 Back to School tour.  I was greeted by MSLA lead teacher Lori Nazareno, who took me on a brief tour and shared the MSLA story and what an exciting story it is.  In fact, MSLA has been featured at length on NEA's Priority Schools Campaign Web site.  

I had the chance to meet and work with some great kids at MSLA.

MSLA is in its second year as a teacher-led school.  During a roundtable discussion with members of the design team for Denver Public Schools, l Iearned more about the process and challenges they are experiencing.  Read more...

Denver School Shows Power of Community

August 23, 2010

By Dennis Van Roekel, NEA President

We kicked off NEA’s 2010 Back to School Tour this morning at Lake International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle School in Denver, Colorado. Arriving at Lake around 6:15 am, I was greeted by Colorado Education Association President Beverly Ingle, Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) President Henry Roman and DCTA Executive Carolyn Crowder. Principal Elza Guajardo welcomed me to Lake, along with parent volunteer Helen Garcia and several Lake students.

Interesting story about Helen Garcia – she doesn’t have students at Lake anymore. Her children and grandchildren attended Lake and she still volunteers at the school. Read more...