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Member Spotlight

Kimberly Eckert: I Became a Teacher to Help People Find Their Power

Kimberly Eckert, 2018 Louisiana Teacher of the Year, became a teacher to help every student thrive.
Kimberly Eckert is a high school English teacher in Louisiana
Published: 06/17/2020

My heart goes out when I hear teachers say they don’t have the time to be advocates in addition to everything else they’re doing. I absolutely get that. I’m tired too. But we only become that much more tired whenever we’re trying to carry out things we know are unworkable solutions.

The reason why I don’t separate the advocacy from the work of being a teacher is that I am fully well aware that because our voices were not present for so long, we’re tasked with carrying out policies that don’t reflect the reality in the classroom. We’re the experts of what it looks like on the ground, and I know if our voice is absent then our work is that much harder.

I was trained as a social worker, and for me, I became a teacher because I didn’t think I was changing the world fast enough. I entered the profession understanding the power of that relationship and the power of helping people see their own power.

I think our awareness of what students need to thrive and the expectation that all students should thrive, not just the chosen ones, has changed for the better. I don’t think student needs have changed, but I think our understanding that it is our job, and the community’s job, and it’s the school’s job, and it’s the country’s job to make sure that kids – all kids -- have their best shot. I think that’s starting to change, and it gives me a lot of hope for where we’re going.

As professionals, whenever we lead with, ‘We know what’s best for kids,’ it’s very difficult for people not to hear you. But whenever we start to think our voices don’t matter and we’re not making enough noise, then no one will hear us.

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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.