Spotlight on Locals: D.C. Everest Teachers’ Association

By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President

WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen presents D.C. Everest Teachers’ Association (DCETA) President Marie Wardall (center) with the WEAC Strong Local Affiliates Certificate. They are joined by members of the D.C. Everest Executive Board (L to R) Tim Rochester, Lynn Burzinski, Yolanda Lloyd, Amy Snyder-Heitman, Kathy Heller, Dawn Bohm, Brian Engebretson, and Paul Froom.

By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President

When I asked about the local’s strength, Paul Froom, English/language arts teacher and the local’s legislative chair, said, “We have a renewed purpose for the D.C. Everest Teachers’ Association.  Participating in the NEA’s Summer Organizing Project and WEAC’s Organizing Institute for Anchor Locals helped us to rethink our work.  Instead of relying on the status quo, we have adapted to a new reality of a smaller group of leaders.  We can’t do what we’ve always done. Instead, we have to re-engage our building representatives with clear direction and goals.”

Marie Wardall, current president of the DCETA, told me, “We ask our colleagues to become a part of something.  We show our members and our potential members our list of accomplishments, and we demonstrate why union membership matters to them.”  

That list of accomplishments of the D.C. Everest Teachers’ Association is impressive. Kathy Heller, ninth-grade algebra teacher and past president of the D.C. Everest Teachers’ Association, told me, “While I was president, we were able to create a functional structure for joint leadership meetings with our administration. From our contacts with other locals in the area and across the state, we knew that this structure was possible, and because of our good relationship with the district leadership, we were able to get this started. We also created loyalty cards for DCETA members, good for discounts at local businesses to thank those who are members of our union.” 

I asked what role does the DCETA play in the local school board?  “We hold a Board Forum every year inviting the candidates who are running. This is an informal question-and-answer session with questions generated by our DCETA building representatives,” Paul told me as he is leading this work this year.  

According to Kathy, “The school district of D.C. Everest also has an extremely supportive local school board with education-friendly, teacher-friendly, and child-centered members currently serving on the board.  DCETA works hard at educating the public on candidates who will be the best for kids, schools, and our community.”

“The strong camaraderie between our executive committee members is what makes our local strong. We get along well and communicate with one another to help each other. Because we have had a core group of people for a long time, we have been working with our new hires to step up, and they have answered the call,” Kathy said.  

Marie spoke about their approach to new teacher recruitment, telling me that they reach out to their new hires three times before the school year even begins. “We hold a picnic as a social sometime late in the summer. Then, we do a meet-and-greet with the new hires giving gift bags with treats and items from our nearby businesses as a welcome to the community.  Finally, we hold a new hire luncheon where we ask them to join our local association. Because we are focusing on building a relationship with these colleagues, we have success in getting them to join with us.”  

When interacting with this local, one point is clear – because the D.C. Everest Teachers’ Association has taken a renewed approach to redefine their local, they are finding success on behalf of their students, their colleagues, and their community. The Wisconsin Education Association Council thanks them for their continued hard work and dedication.

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