‘It’s Going to Start in the Classroom’: Aspiring Educators on Protecting Democracy
Gen Z: The Most Pro-Union Generation
'It all started with a red shirt and a desire to support my teachers.'
All Work, No Pay
Aspiring Educators on Why They Choose to Teach
From the Chair
A message from NEA’s Aspiring Educators Program Chair Sabreena Shaller
Hello, from the new Aspiring Ed Chair!
When I began thinking about running to be the next chair, I thought deeply on what it means to be a leader and how I would best represent you all at the national level. I found myself reminiscing about the day I became a union member.
When I first joined the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), I understood the importance of a union and the history of leadership and societal changes that unions have had in our workplaces, but I could never have predicted the personal and professional growth I would experience because of my union membership.
As the first educator in my family, I was often questioned about my future profession. So when I started my educational journey at Millersville University, I knew I needed to find a group of people who shared my dreams and understood what it was like to be an educator. I sought out education clubs on campus, and I joined them all. Although I attended every club’s meetings, one organization stood out to me—Student PSEA. When I walked into the first chapter meeting, we discussed the importance of unionism, what it means to stand in solidarity with others, and the events we would engage in during the year. From the start, I welcomed the idea of being part of something larger than myself and my future classroom. I knew that by joining Student PSEA and subsequently NEA, I wasn’t just joining an association, I was joining a movement.
As a member of the largest labor union in the United States—and the one with the most talented educators—I have gained the knowledge and skill set to be a vocal advocate for students inside and outside the classroom.
Our work together
Today, as a recent graduate with a degree in early childhood and special education, I know our work as Aspiring Educators reaches far beyond the curriculum we will one day teach. As advocates for public education, we must continue to fight for a racially and socially just education system. I am grounded in my values and purpose as an educator to continue to seek progress.
These same ideals will propel our work together during my first year as your chair.
Currently, our nation is experiencing one of the largest teacher shortages in
history. And that’s not all. We are being impacted by politicians who are privatizing public education and undermining our mission to provide a quality education to all students, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability status. We also see lawmakers banning books and lessons that teach the truth of our nation’s history. Our purpose as educators is to ensure all students are provided with an education that allows them to reflect on past mistakes—and that gives them the tools to lead. Our students must see themselves represented in our ever-evolving communities. As Aspiring Educators, it is our responsibility to stand in unity with active and retired educators to ensure the profession we all love is protected and respected.
During the next two years, I am committed to making sure Aspiring Educators across the country can find their role in the national movement for educator respect and the protection of a truthful education system. In doing so, together we will develop as leaders.
We all have a place in the movement for societal change. It is up to each of us to use our voice for progress.
Together, we will lean on one another and push each other to be better advocates for public education.
Dear NEA Aspiring Ed members,
I am honored to serve as your president. United, we will reclaim public education as a common good and transform it into a racially and socially just system that actually prepares every student—not one, not some, but every single student—to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world. Onward!
Face to Face with NEA Aspiring Educators
Last year, after a gunman killed 21 people at Robb Elementary School, in Uvalde, Texas, I joined California Aspiring Educator Jonathan Oyaga for an Instagram Live conversation about gun violence in schools. Jonathan shared how, since the 2022 Sandy Hook school shooting, in Connecticut, he and other young students nationwide have been required to practice live shooter drills and have grown up in an era of mass shootings. Preventing school shootings is “not a helpless effort,” he said, reinforcing the importance of engaging with your union—even as an Aspiring Educator—and voting in every national, state, and local election to hold officials accountable.
Two Things to Do For Yourself and Your Union
- Tell Congress to expand background checks on potential gun purchasers. Parents should not have to worry that their children won’t come home from school one day. Join me in calling on Congress to do its job! Protect our students at nea.org/Common-Sense-Gun-Reform.
- It’s never too early to get into good trouble. NEA helped deliver big wins in the 2022 elections by supporting pro-public education candidates. Stay involved year-round to ensure elected officials provide the resources our students, schools, and educators need. Learn more at EdVotes.org.