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Member & Activist Spotlight

Tracey Barrett: The Best Part of My Day

Tracey Barrett is U.S. History Teacher in Durham, North Carolina
Tracey Barrett
Published: March 7, 2022

I always looked up to my teachers and respected them. Both my grandmothers were teachers, and I have aunts, uncles, and cousins who are educators. I also received a fantastic public education, from kindergarten through college.
I grew up in Asheville, where public education was prioritized by the community. I was lucky. I saw in my own public school education the benefits of having relatively well-resourced public schools that attracted great teachers. I had those great teachers—and they inspired me to want to be a teacher.
Today, I teach U.S. History to juniors in Durham, North Carolina. This is the best age to teach (I’m biased!) because their futures are starting to take shape and that can be exciting. It can also be frustrating. Some students are looking at society from different perspectives—class, race, gender, or identity—and their place in it. They don't always feel like that future is necessarily bright.
And so, it’s a powerful time to have a history class, where students can connect the struggles from the past and present to their own lives. It's gratifying to see them use the content of history to better understand the present and to fit themselves into it in a way that feels empowering and hopeful. It’s the best part of my day.
Because I was a history and women studies major in college, I make sure that in teaching U.S. History, I’m not just adding a few token women here and there. I try to teach about how gender worked throughout history and how structurally social norms and rules were set up to disenfranchise and disempower women, and how those structures have been upheld over time. Trying to undo those oppressive norms has been challenging. Especially today, as we are collectively understanding that there are not only two types of people, and the fight to affirm everyone’s gender identity is a fight against this long history of rigid, binary gender norms.
As for my union, I came to Durham Association of Educators and the North Carolina Association of Educators because rank-and-file educators were organizing, coming together, and  advocating for a student who had been detained by ICE. They were fighting to get him out of an immigration detention center, and I was inspired by that and wanted to work with the teachers who were a part of getting him out.
Since then, we've seen in North Carolina a huge groundswell of educators organizing, from mass actions in Raleigh and GOTV efforts for pro-public education candidates to protections during the pandemic.
I see the union as the place where educators can go to strengthen their practice and profession. It’s a place full of people who know what’s best, have experience, and understand what's possible and what can become possible if we fight together. I feel very grateful to be a part of NCAE.

National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

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.