Spotlight on Locals: Belleville Education Association

WEAC President Ron Martin and Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen deliver the WEAC Strong Local Affiliate Certificate to Belleville Education Association (BEA). Monika Brown, BEA President, accepts the certificate and is joined by Meredith Smith (left), BEA Treasurer and Membership Chair, along with Jean Tretow, BEA Secretary.

By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President

When I asked the leaders of the Belleville Education Association what makes their local strong, Monika Brown, high school German teacher of 30 years and President of the Belleville Education Association, said, “It’s our willingness to listen, communicate, and follow through. We listen to our members and work to head off potential problems, and we share our members’ needs with administration before small issues become large problems.”

This was evident at the Belleville Education Association meeting where time was dedicated to listening to members’ needs throughout the district.

Per Monika, “We have built a friendly working relationship with our administration and continue to work to maintain it. We have an open, collaborative, diplomatic demeanor in our association. This keeps us strong.”

As we all know, this takes time and energy on behalf of local leaders, and the BEA is clearly invested in this critical work.

The Belleville Education Association also has a strong membership with 63 of their 75 teachers as Belleville Education Association members, which is 84%. How do they do that? According to Meredith Smith, high school physical science teacher of 15 years and BEA Treasurer and Membership Chair, “We do continual outreach to our new teachers. All our new hires are invited to an initial meeting. We then invite new teachers to lunch and, at a later date, sponsor a catered breakfast on one of the first workdays. At the breakfast, we have our members tell their stories of why they belong to our association.”

Because of their strong membership and collaborative approach to leadership, the BEA has a presence throughout the district. Monika shared, “We attend the school board meetings and other district meetings, careful to share this responsibility. As a leadership team, we work together and look out for one another.”

The BEA also has regular meetings with district leadership where they are able to address needs of their members and their students. Monika also said, “We have good camaraderie among our team of teachers. Our friendships with one another build support.”

Meredith echoed that sentiment, “Because we are a small staff, we are a close staff. We organize gatherings away from school and make it a point to get to know our co-workers as people. Education is hard enough with all the hoops to jump through. We need to have each other to lean on. My co-workers are why I stay here.”

It’s clear that the strength of the Belleville Education Association is an important part of what makes their local school district strong. Thank you to the Belleville Education Association, one of WEAC’s Strong Local Affiliates.

Read all of Peggy’s ‘Spotlight On Locals’ columns at weac.org/Spotlight.