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NEA News

The Art of Door Knocking

Want to get voters to the polls to elect pro-public education candidates? Listen to this NEA Today audio story about the why and how of canvassing voters.
door knocking
Published: March 13, 2024

Every NEA member has the skills to knock on doors and get voters to the polls in support of pro-public education candidates. "You just need to be willing," says Maryland teacher Stephanie Bernholz Leuschner, who participated in this NEA Today audio story about the art of canvassing. Click below to travel along with Stephanie and get some points about face-to-face advocacy.

Quote byStephanie Bernholz Leuschner

Being willing is really the biggest special skill you have, just being willing to talk to people.
—Stephanie Bernholz Leuschner

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Sound effort: Door knocking Unidentified woman: Hi there… Stephanie Bernholz Leuschner: I’m Stephanie, I’m with TAAC. I was wondering if I could talk to [fade] Sound effort: Ring door tone Unidentified woman: Hi! Stephanie: Hi there! How are you? I’m Stephanie, I’m one of [fade} Sound effect: Door knocking, door opening. Mary Ellen Flannery: Hi! I’m Mary Ellen Flannery and I’m with NEA Today — and, if you haven’t already guessed, this is an audio story about union members knocking on doors and talking to voters about union-recommended candidates. You just heard Stephanie Bernholz Leuschner doing exactly that. Stephanie is a special educator in Maryland and a member of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, known around here as TAAC. This spring, Steph’s union asked her to talk with other TAAC members about a really supportive school board member who is running for re-election. And Steph said SURE! I’ll do that! And she let me come along. Stephanie: I know the board of ed elections are going to be a hard fight. I wanted to put the work in to make sure our board is pro-educator. It’s kind of an interesting thought that they would not be… Sound effort: Door knocking. Stephanie: I’m Stephanie. I’m a member of TAAC. I was wondering if I could speak to…[fade] Mary Ellen: Some people call this door knocking. Others canvassing. The experts call it voter outreach — and they agree it really does work. Studies show that door-to-door, face-to-face canvassing is way more effective than postcards or emails at convincing voters to actually vote. In a close race, it can make the difference between electing a candidate who supports public schools—and one who doesn’t. Stephanie: ….board of education and we just want to make sure you know she’s endorsed by us… Sound effort: Phone ring tone. Clay Hale: Hello? Mary Ellen: Hi Clay! It’s Mary Ellen from NEA. Clay: Hi! How’s it going? Mary Ellen: Going well! How are you? Clay: Doing well. Mary Ellen: Clay Hale is a high school social studies teacher in San Jose, California, who recently won a seat on his local community college board. I called him because Clay knows a lot about door knocking. Mary Ellen: Tell me how you feel about door knocking! Clay: It’s a great way to know your neighbors. One asset that we have as teachers is that your neighbors love to hear from the local teacher in your community. Mary Ellen: So that’s the why on door knocking. It gets people to the polls and helps inform them about pro-public school candidates. Now let’s talk about the HOW. Stephanie and Clay have a lot of advice. First, go in groups or pairs, like Stephanie and me.Second, keep your conversations outside — and stand far enough back from the door so that people can open it safely. Third, and this is key — dress for comfort. Stephanie: To canvas, I just wore my jeans, my TAAC shirt, so people would have no doubts about who I am, and then some sensible walking shoes. Mary Ellen: Sunscreen? Stephanie: Yeah, I got some sunscreen. Mary Ellen: Number four, use the tools your union gives you. Stephanie and I got a script from her union and we used their phone app to keep track of who we talked to. And finally, make it clear you’re an educator. Clay: I wore my local union t-shirt. I had some various school shirts I wore every now and then… lanyards that identified me as a teacher. Mary Ellen: When people know you’re an educator, they’re more inclined to be respectful. In fact, everybody Stephanie and I met was very nice. Even the dogs were friendly! Sound effect: Dog howling. Clay: I could probably count on one hand all the negative encounters I had. But I think it really goes back to like when teachers knock on doors, there’s a respect that teachers have in a community and I feel that dissuades any negative encounters that you might have. ME: Both Stephanie and Clay say educators already have the skills it takes to knock on doors. Stephanie: Being willing is [laugh] really the biggest special skill you have, just being willing to talk to people. Sound effort: Door knock. Door knock. [Fade]
Photo of Stephanie Bernholz Leuschner
Black woman leaning on railing and texting on her mobile phone

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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.