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Member Spotlight

Taunya Jaco: A Passion for Advocacy and Justice

Taunya Jaco is a 6th grade English Language Arts and Social Studies Teacher in San Jose, California
Taunya Jaco
Published: 07/21/2022

I have a passion for advocacy and justice. During my first full year of teaching, I told another teacher I was interested in the policy side of education and how we could improve things for students and educators. She encouraged me to apply for the California Teachers Association’s Ethnic Minority Early Identification and Development Program, which brings in educators and exposes them to the association’s work and process. She also encouraged me to attend the NEA RA that year, which was back in D.C. I really felt like my two passions and loves came together there at the RA. Suddenly, everything clicked and I found my path to create change at the systemic level through education.

It was our union that gave me a platform and space where my voice and activism would contribute to this fight in a way that was meaningful and fulfilling. I had the opportunity to join other educators in advocating for a more just and equitable and inclusive school system for our youth and marginalized communities, and I realized this is where I am supposed to be.

The best part of my day, however, is getting to build relationships with students. They’re our future leaders and world changers, and it’s a privilege to get to know them and have a vital role in their development. It is a humbling experience to be able to leave a footstep and a thumbprint in their path as they grow into their greatness. There’s nothing better than seeing a student who has that lightbulb go off inside their head and can realize the power of their own voice.

I’ve had the privilege to serve in several roles within NEA and CTA, including as a member of NEA’s Board of Directors and as the Secretary of the NEA Black Caucus, but it’s not about the positions or roles for me. It’s about doing the work. I’m always thinking about what I can do to serve my community, how I can contribute to the work of moving our field of education forward, and what I can do to support the liberation of marginalized communities. I understand that this is my purpose in life, so it doesn’t really feel like work.

As educators, I believe that we have an ethical responsibility to our profession to tell the truth and teach the truth. It’s not our responsibility to teach students what to think, but it is our responsibility as educators to teach them how to think critically. If we’re going to really make things better and improve society, then that work starts with how we educate our students.

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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.