Young delegates find camaraderie, inspiration at NEA Representative Assembly

Approximately 8,000 delegates – including 122 from Wisconsin – will represent state and local affiliates, student members, retired members, and other segments of the united education profession at the NEA’s Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly this summer in Boston. This year’s events take place from June 25 to July 5.

Various committees, constituencies, caucuses, leadership groups, and delegates from state and local affiliates gather to set policy and chart the direction of NEA business. But the RA is about more than setting association policy. It’s also a venue for members and leaders to share information and insights, discuss leadership strategies, and form lasting friendships.

We asked a few of our young WEAC delegates why they chose to be NEA RA delegates and why it matters. Here is what they had to say:

Josh Jackson, K-5 teacher, Sherman Elementary School, Milwaukee Public Schools:

“As a young educator and union member, one of the most important things for me was to be active in any and every way possible. What I found is that by choosing to serve as a delegate, I opened the door to have a say in the direction of NEA and help support the needs and wants of educators from Wisconsin. After being elected, it was such an exhilarating experience to attend my first NEA RA last year in Washington, D.C. and stand on the floor of the RA with so many other educators from around Wisconsin and around the country and do the work of our union. Serving as a delegate to NEA RA matters to me because it is my way to give back to all those educators that have stood up for our students. By attending I want to make sure that Wisconsin’s voice is heard loud and clear and that everyone knows WE are here for the betterment of education in our state and nation!”

Justin Kamp, music teacher, Harmony Elementary School, Milton School District:

“The NEA RA is a great opportunity to be a voice for and with WEAC at the National Level. It is also a way to be engaged in the NEA and get a stronger understanding for what the NEA does for EVERY state.

“At the NEA RA it is great to be a part of discussion and decisions that will help shape, grow and move our union toward the future of education. We are the voice that advocates for quality public education for ALL students. It is crucial that newer WEAC members get involved and continue working with our union, for we are the future of the union.”

Gina Pagel, foreign language and literature teacher, Arboretum Elementary School, Waunakee Community School District:

“I am thrilled to serve as a delegate to the NEA RA this year! The Representative Assembly is our chance to speak for our students at the national level. It’s members’ chance to amplify the voices of fellow teachers from Wisconsin. It’s our chance to vote on the future direction of our association.The NEA RA will be our chance to vote to ensure that those who represent members from across the country every day have a clear vision. The RA is also a fabulous opportunity to network with other educators. I have met and formed a professional community with like-minded members who I can reach out to when I’m seeking advice about both school and the work of our local association. I’m so grateful to be a part of such a committed group of educators who lift one another up and push our association to be its very best. Serving as a delegate is one of many ways to get involved and to do our part as members of this organization.”

Nick Sirek, 6th grade teacher, DeLong Middle School, Eau Claire School District:

“I have chosen to serve as a delegate to the NEA RA for two main reasons. First, because it is one more way to get involved with the association! I am lucky to serve at the local and state level, and representing Wisconsin at the national level is another way for me to be an active member of the association. I am able to make connections between all levels for the members in Eau Claire. The second reason I serve as a delegate is because it is exciting! I cannot describe how thrilling it is to celebrate public education and public school educators with nearly 10,000 other delegates! Through my involvement at the NEA RA I am able to help promote students, public schools, and educators!”

Jane Weidner, social studies and Spanish teacher, Cedar Grove Middle School, Cedar Grove-Belgium School District:

“I am the NEA. The NEA is an organization of everyday education professionals, who work in the best interest of our students, our communities, and our schools. One of the ways that I can contribute to that cause is by attending the NEA Representative Assembly. It is democracy in action and allows me to have a voice in the direction that my union takes. We are in a time when public education is under attack, and it is crucial that we stand together with other educators from around the nation to protect our public schools. The NEA RA is one opportunity for me to do just that.”