Before coming to Virginia five years ago, I taught for one year in Pennsylvania. I immediately saw the differences between each state. It mainly had to do with collective bargaining: Virginia didn’t have it, Pennsylvania does.
I had more freedom as an educator in Pennsylvania because of collective bargaining and the advocacy work other teachers had done before me.
In Virginia, we had little planning time. I was getting maybe two of my planning periods per week. The pressure on testing is too high. The state’s standardized test dictated our goals. I felt it was harder to have a voice here than it had been previously.
I know how much of a difference the union had made in Pennsylvania, and so it was never a question for me of whether I needed to join the Virginia Education Association. Joining VEA was one of the first things I did when I got here.
During my third year of teaching, I participated in a program called Sparks, which helps new teachers learn about the union and how to get more involved. I learned some things and was really fired up to help advocate for my students, coworkers, and myself.
When I got back from that program, I started talking to people who I knew were on my local association board. This year, I'm president of the Culpepper County Education Association.
I have to thank the union for giving me a voice. I did not have it before I started getting more involved. Now, I feel more equipped to advocate for myself and for others.
Earlier this year, a group of us met with our legislators to talk about the need for collective bargaining. With the help of our union and our voices, collective bargaining is coming to Virginia. Being able to bargain collectively makes it a more personal, local experience whenever you're talking about contracts. We can speak to our members, see what the needs are, and advocate for those specific things. There are many concerns educators have that our central office and administrators aren't necessarily aware of and collective bargaining would give us all a seat at the table so we can hash those things out together."