Spotlight on Locals: Appleton Education Association

WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen presents the Strong Local Affiliate Certificate to Appleton Education Association President Chris Heller (center), and members of the AEA Membership Committee.

By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President

When I sat down with the members of the Appleton Education Association’s Membership Committee and asked them about the strength of the Appleton EA, President Chris Heller said, “We inherited a strong association. Past presidents like Marcia Engen, Noelle Mudrak, Candi Breitengross, Mark Leschke and Dianne Lang built the AEA to be a strong local. We are working to keep it strong.”

How the Appleton Education Association maintains strength starts with building a strong relationship with members of the administration and the school board. Local Vice President Ed Krejcie said, “Overall, there is a culture of support for the AEA. The teachers I know that are no longer members have made that choice based on cost of membership, but continue to support the association with their words, actions, and their votes.”

Chris added, “It goes even deeper than that; the district is actively seeking input from all groups, including our parapros.” The Appleton Education Association is a wall-to-wall unit with members from both the teaching ranks and education support professionals.

Former AEA President Noelle Mudrak, who serves on the district’s Workload Committee, expressed pride in the accomplishments of this committee. “We are a solution-minded group that doesn’t just complain about what is happening,” she said. “We always discuss what we can do about it.”

Noelle also pointed out that school board members want to attend these meetings alongside district administration. Chris also mentioned how the last four school board members elected have reached out to the Appleton Education Association president because they want a healthy working relationship, understanding that this is good for kids.

The Appleton EA leaders highlighted the association’s successful work on a salary scale for those who don’t hold a master’s degree. The local has worked with the district to equalize the salary schedule, making modifications to sustain it while keeping continual movement. Chris said, “The district has been willing to meet and confer with us to make these adjustments.”

Additionally, the AEA has worked to bring in new professional development opportunities, taught in the district by AEA members. The association has run sessions on classroom management and creating inclusive classrooms for LGBTQ students. It is working to build further capacity for professional development, and association leaders are excited about the opportunities that this brings for their members, potential members, and the students that they serve.

Finally, the Appleton EA leaders are engaged in conversation about membership trends, discussing their growth of about 40 members this past year, and they are working through a plan for further growth and strengthening of their local. They are optimistic about their upcoming spring and summer member recruiting drives and are already engaged in planning of events to meet the needs of all their members. This committed group has been able to work through both transitions in the profession and in their association to continue to be a strong local affiliate.

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