As I began my college career, I was determined to be active in education. I found a route through the Illinois Education Association (IEA) and my local Aspiring Educators (AE) chapter. I attended my first IEA AE meeting two weeks into my freshman year at the University of Illinois. I had no idea about the vast leadership opportunities and friendships I could develop through IEA and NEA would shape me into a confident aspiring educator advocate.
One key concern that both IEA and NEA Aspiring Educators advocate for is student teacher pay. With Michigan investing in livable stipends, we hope to follow their lead in Illinois.
Unpaid student teaching is inequitable. Student teachers are working full-time in a school and attending classes, with minimal time to work a second job to pay the bills. Student teachers are not merely making enough – they are living in a financial deficit. Those who can afford to not work during student teaching are more likely to gain licensure, solely because of their socioeconomic status. Additionally, aspiring educators of color are disproportionately affected by unpaid student teaching. To address the educator shortage, we must compensate student teachers for their dedicated work.
Through my position as IEA Aspiring Educators chairperson, I was able to lobby for paid student teaching at the state level, where I had an opportunity to chat with Illinois Governor J.B Pritzker to alert him to the inequities of unpaid student teaching. Additionally, IEA Aspiring Educators are submitting a New Business Item the 2023 IEA Representative Assembly, where we call upon IEA to promote livable stipends for student teachers to the Illinois legislature.
The personal growth I have seen in myself as both a leader and an advocate through my union leadership has made me confident to enter the classroom. Joining NEA gave me the window of opportunity beyond the classroom and become directly involved in shaping the education system.
In my union career I have chosen to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity. The leadership roles I’ve taken have pushed me far out of my comfort zone, and I am so proud of the assertive leader I have become. I am incredibly grateful that my union leadership roles will not end at graduation, but rather are just the beginning.