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Member & Activist Spotlight

'Keep moving forward – together'

Tammy LaPlante is a Custodian in Ashtabula, Ohio
Tammy LaPlante Moses Mitchell
Published: December 16, 2022

The one message I have consistently had for educators in my schools and members of my union has been to keep moving forward.  I believe, despite whatever setbacks that come our way, we have to move ahead and work to make things better.

Throughout my career in education, I have worked to improve my situation and make sure that the schools where I have worked as an aide and custodian were better for my efforts. I’ve now worked in a variety of positions and in every building in the Ashtabula Area City Schools, my district. I’ve gotten to know hundreds of co-workers and thousands of students in my work, and I’ve always suggested to them we need to move ahead, solve problems and make the school better.

I believe I have three families – my real family, my friends and my union family – and I rely on each and persuade others that they should build these supports and rely on them too. I know educators are well equipped to resolve problems – their own or the group’s – and the union provides the structure and the community for that type of growth and those types of relationships.

I got involved with the union just after I was hired in 2009, and soon a position came open to represent my department with the local, I offered to do it. But a person with a lot of experience suggested I might be too new. When I asked if they wanted to take the responsibility instead – the job was mine.

I learned a lot about the union and its procedures by responding to questions from members. I was always willing to hear what they had to say – and it helped me learn more about their needs and the way that issues could be resolved – the way forward.

In my work with the union as secretary of the Ashtabula Association of Classified School Employees and member of the Ohio Education Association board, my message has been the same. There have been issues that have somewhat divided us as a group, and I’ve tried to bring people together and reach a consensus. I’ve also worked as a grievance representative and been told I am good in that role because I strive to see both sides and get people to reach a compromise. Come to an agreement … move forward.

There are always issues in education – from concerns about pay and benefits to class size and discipline. It is particularly bad now, where everyone needs someone to cover classes and some of the civility is gone. There are fewer thank yous, and everyone is stressed. I remind people about self-care in critical times like these and the need to seek the support of your colleagues and friends

Schools are a good place for that type of connection and our union is a perfect vehicle to advance our work as educators. Along with our union, schools are a great place to keep moving forward – together.

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.