I joined the Illinois Education Association in 2002 as a new college professor. I knew the importance of being a union member and wanted to be part of an organization that would provide me with the support and resources I needed to help me be successful in my job.
During my second year of teaching, in response to the unfair treatment I and other members experienced from City Colleges of Chicago‘s administration, I turned to the union’s leadership for help. I liked the way the union supported us and decided to become involved.
We negotiated a fair contract with equitable wages for college adjuncts and part-time workers, winning our members a 25% pay increase and more than five million dollars in retroactive pay. It was the largest contract victory in our local’s history.
NEA’s Leadership Competency Framework came to life for me when I was asked to define my ‘why.’ Why was I passionate about education? What gave me a clear sense of purpose and enabled me to focus my efforts on what matters most? For me there is one answer:
Every individual has a purpose, and it’s never too late to find and understand that purpose.
My union experience has been immensely satisfying, second only to teaching. The highlight of my teaching career was being named the 2018 Higher Educator of the Year. As such, I addressed the NEA Representative Assembly—and shared my teaching philosophy with more than 10,000 educators.
When I look back over my union work and my teaching career, I am proud of my work. I am especially proud of my contributions as an educator because I know education is the passport to all of life’s achievements, and being an educator is the noblest of professions. It has given me great joy and an even greater sense of contribution and accomplishment.