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Member & Activist Spotlight

Lukas Michener: Uniting for Social Justice with NEA

Lukas Michener, a social studies teacher in Washington, was co-nominated as Social Justice Activists of the Year. Being a member of NEA has connected him with a network of support and helped forward his activism.
Lukas Michener is a social studies teacher in Washington
Published: 06/16/2020

The idea that we are neutral actors is false. We are not. We have lots of power. We meet with young people every day and we want to ensure there is a just and equitable educational experience for all of them.

And if we keep doing things the way they have always been done, without asking questions and changing the way we have been doing things, we will continue to have unjust outcomes.

In 2017, my colleague, Terry Jess, and I were co-nominated for Social Justice Activists of the Year. In connecting with teachers around the country who also came to the NEA Conference on Racial and Social Justice, I saw how our union could be a unifier for us, how it could bring together like-minded educators who might feel isolated in the spaces they are in. I found this whole network of support that I had not realized existed and which just in the past few years has been so important to me. I now have friends in Maryland and Florida and Utah and more that are also doing this work and we really support each other.

Our local union has supported a resolution in support of Black Lives Matter in Schools Week of Action and endorses teacher participation in those events. Because of that, I think our school board and the school district has, in turn, supported the resolution and events. Without our union support of the Black Lives Matter School Week of Action, it would have been much more difficult for the school district to support it. Just the fact that a Black Lives Matter resolution was presented to the union and was supported and endorsed goes a long way, especially in this area. I think that was the proudest I have been of our union.

Something that we all need to do better is supporting, hiring and retaining educators of color. We try to make black students fit into a white system. More than 80 percent of teachers today are white. And that doesn’t at all reflect the young people in our classrooms.

Librarian leans over seated students at the library who are reading a book

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