My mother was a classroom teacher and in that time I saw firsthand how selfless she was with her students and their families. If a family couldn’t afford school supplies, she would buy them. She would make sure students had lunch money or even clean clothes to wear for school.
My mother was also a hardcore union member. She was an activist and an organizer. She inspired me to go into education and join my union.
I didn’t just sign up to be a member and leave it at that.
I have a passion to serve our members, which led me to run for different leadership positions. My leadership has allowed me to advocate for our students and our members. I’ve been able to prioritize professional development that is career and content-based—and designed by the union.
A couple of years ago, we launched NEA’s ESP Professional Growth Continuum which provides pathways for professional learning and growth throughout the career of an education support professional. We also implemented ACEs and other trauma-informed trainings. We learned how trauma impacts children. As a result of the training, some of our members were able to identify their own trauma and our union was able to offer avenues for them to find help.
That was an eye-opener moment for me because if we can’t address our own issues, how can we be effective for our own students?
These professional opportunities have led to membership growth. Within one year, membership has gone from 32 to now almost 400 members. Other ESPs have heard about the great work that we’re doing within the association. They believe in this work and in our cause.
It’s both rewarding and empowering to have this opportunity and to do this work.