Thursday, July 9, 2009

July 4th 2009

Happy Birthday America!!!!!

When I found out that on July 4th I had to be I a conference center all day, I was at first a little sad. But I would have to say that this was one of the most unique fourths I have ever had.

Once again our group was at the San Diego Conference Center for the NEA RA. The atmosphere of the area was exciting and fun. Everyone was dressed in his or her red, white, and blue. Soon after we arrived the students were nominated by donations from Tammy and Greg to wear the Fourth of July hat. All 9 of us shared it for an hour. It was a lot of fun to walk around with it, although with all the other outfits we did not stick out much.

Being with the National Education Association on July 4th was an amazing experience. The theme of the NEA RA this year is “Hope Starts Here.” This is a very special message. As a country we have moved away from an administration that was not always supportive of education to one that is working with the NEA to better the education system in America. We were shown a slide show during the day that highlighted several individuals that have made a difference in the America. Some of these individuals were, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Czar Chavez, and Barrack Obama. Then we were given a special message from Obama about our work as educators and what it means for the country.

The most inspirational part was when all of the student delegates and teachers under 30 were called up on the stage to be recognized that we are the future of education. The audience gave us a standing ovation. We sang Hero by Mariah Carey. Then we chanted “Hope Starts Here, Hope Starts Here, Hope Starts Here!” I was honestly given goosebumps as we stood on stage together. I realized the impact that we have upon the education system. Hope really does start here; it really does start with us. It is our job though to take it into the classroom and apply it to the student.

It was a wonderful experience to spend the fourth with 10,000 educators. It gave me a sense of pride and gratitude for our country and our country’s educators.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

July 3, 2009

            Today was the first day of the NEA RA and I must say what an experience. I was not really sure what I should be expecting but after seeing the organization that went into both the registration of over 10,000 delegates and the coordination of the expo I could only guess that the actual RA would be quite an event. When I walked into the convention hall I was surprised as to how big the RA actually was. It was even more surprising when we started the new business items and all of the sudden there was a huge roar of “aye” followed by a “no” from the crowd. It was very confusing for the first hour but eventually I caught on to the process and the order of the convention and found it to be very interesting.

            I think that the most interesting part of the convention so far was the new business items. I think that as a union member it gave me a great insight to how business is done. I had never thought that a group of that size would be able to get through so much information as quickly as they did. I think that it will really help me to have seen the process in action and has clarified a lot of questions I had about how to run an efficient meeting. I hope to institute the rules that the NEA follows in my chapter in Mankato to hopefully resolve some issues that we have in running efficient meetings.

                       I also liked the fact that the new business items covered a wide range of topics not only topics directly related to education. I think that the new business items allowed me to really think about some topics that do not affect me currently but will probably start to appear in my life in the near future. When I arrived in San Diego I had not really thought about what the topics would be or how I might feel about the topics. 

Bonnie Liepold

Student Delegate

Minnesota State University, Mankato

Monday, July 6, 2009

July 5, 2009

Two New Business Items (NBIs) deepened my union convictions (NBI 34) and church-state separation stance (NBI 35). As an active member of Minnesota State University Mankato’s Education Minnesota Student Program (EMSP), NBI 34 complimented EMSP’s commitment to membership recruitment. As one delegate mentioned on the RA floor, some regions in the United States will face significant teacher shortages by 2015. To fill this shortage, EMSP is committed to recruiting energetic educators and engaging them in professional growth.

NBI 35, the second of two NBIs discussed here, provides a template for the aforementioned professional growth. As an aspiring high school social studies teacher, my support for the separation of church and state was reinforced during NBI 35’s RA floor debate. NBI 35 aimed to prohibit the RA’s exhibit hall from promoting non-scientific concepts of creation science, creationism, or intelligent design. Although NBI 35 failed, it produced a healthy debate and a divided Minnesota Caucus.

In another example of union involvement, Tracy and I collaborated with Minnesota’s state contacts to Texas, Alaska, and South Carolina. In groups of four, Tracy, Minnesota’s respective state contact, the other state’s respective contact, and I discussed NBI 84—a Minnesota-initiated NBI to examine the feasibility of honoring the current year state affiliate NEA Teacher of Excellence at the NEA RA. In other words, by promoting this award, the NEA Teacher of Excellence might gain stage recognition at the RA. Elevating this award to NEA Teacher of the Year Award will motivate more NEA teachers to become involved in their local unions.

Thank you Education Minnesota Vice President Paul Mueller for mobilizing students for NBI 84.

Finally, Tracy and I held Al Franken posters behind Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher during his pep rally celebrating Al Franken’s Senate seating. We both enjoyed our three minutes of fame!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Thursday, July 2nd

We started the day with our second Minnesota caucus meeting of the NEA Representative Assembly. At the beginning of the meeting our group was recognized for the work we did during the Outreach to Teach at Balboa Elementary School. Winona State was also recognized for their work that they completed in their own Outreach to Teach at the local level. Abby Karth, who participated in the Winona State Outreach to Teach, encouraged everyone in the room to participate in a project such as Outreach at their own local schools. This project is such an important part of a child's education. Children should be excited about going to their school every day to learn and meet new people, and with all of our helping hands this can be made possible.

The rest of the meeting was mostly spent on voting on the amendments to the standing rules. I learned that the standing rules are what govern how things are run at the RA. Some of these included the correct process to speak, how to introduce new business items and how to propose a motion. These rules are very important for the process of the RA to run smoothly.

After the meeting was finished we had the rest of the day free, before the RA starts tomorrow morning. A group of us decided to spend the day at Sea World to learn about and see the fascinating animals of the sea. As we walked around the park, it was fun to see all of the children's faces light up as they got to hold a sea star or walk underneath the shark tank or even pet the sting rays. As a student teacher I am able to see the value and importance of field trips such as these. It is crucial for children to see and connect what they are learning in the classroom to the people, places and things around us.

Wednesday, July 1

After the welcome and introductions, student delegates, new delegates, staff and the executive board were recognized at the Education Minnesota Caucus Meeting. New Business Item (NBI) procedures and the Political Action Committee were discussed. Senator Al Franken and the NEA-AFT campaign were also discussed.

This meeting reflected strong values that Education Minnesota supports. The first was how meeting together, as a caucus, strengthens our union. One strategy to accomplish this is by contributing what we can to support congressional delegates that support education. Networking was also greatly encouraged. Fortunately, we, the student delegates, began that process when we arrived in San Diego for the Student Delegate Conference. We also continue networking with our Education Minnesota Caucus. The NEA core values (Community Outreach, Political Action and Teacher Quality) that we discussed at the student conference definitely coincide with Education Minnesota's values.

Veronica Blake
Education Minnesota Student Program
Minnesota State University, Mankato

June 28, 2009

This morning Chelsey Cook and I woke up bright and early to participate in the Early Bird Fitness Bootcamp. This was an optional program that we decided to participate in that was led by personal fitness trainers from the San Diego area. As a future educator I believe that it is important to find a balance in our lives when it comes to our jobs as teachers and all that work that goes along with it, social life, and our own physical wellness. The bootcamp provided a great opportunity for us to relieve some of our stress.

All of the student delegates had the opportunity to attend three breakout sessions provided by the NEA Student Program. I attended MyFace-Spacebook, Welcome to the Jungle, and Reality Check. MyFace-Spacebook discussed different issues related to using the internet and online activities that could possibly cost future teachers their jobs if not followed or done in a professional manner. Welcome to the Jungle discussed many different issues that could come up during your first year of teaching. Students who attended this session were provided with tips and tricks of setting up a classroom, managing time during our first year, difficult situations that may arise, and what different supplies to include to survive your first year as teachers. This was my favorite session that I attended because of all of the different ideas that the NEA Members in charge provided us with. My last session that I attended was Reality Check. This session discussed student and teacher behaviors that our methods didn’t cover. We had the opportunity to read and discuss different issues that teachers were fired for in the past.

During the next Fall Student Leadership conference, the student delegates who attended the NEA Leadership Conference will discuss what we learned during these sessions with other student members. As a future teacher I will apply all that I learned during my sessions to my career. Being a member of the teacher union I appreciate having the opportunity to participate in these breakout sessions. The sessions I attended dealt with one of the NEA student program’s core value relating to teacher quality which is a very important part of the classroom.

Laura Hillman
Student Delegate
Gustavus Adolphus

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

June 29th, 2009

June 29th was our last day of the NEA Student Leadership Conference. I will speak for all of the students from Minnesota and say we all had a great experience and learned a great deal about the student program and the NEA. I had the luxury of coming back to the national conference for a second year in a row, because I went to last year's conference in Washington, D.C. Though this was my second time coming, I feel like I have taken in lots of new information that will be useful in my many years to come.

During our ending sessions the students were given the opportunity to attend a few more breakout sessions. The sessions were aimed at one of the NEA student program’s core values of community outreach. We had the choice of going to how to create your own Outreach to Teach, Read Across America, apply for a CLASS grant, and how to utilize the media in relation to reaching out to the community. Personally, I attended the session about the Outreach to Teach. I chose this session because that meant the most to me. I really enjoyed myself at the Outreach to Teach at Wakefield High School in Arlington, VA, last year, and this year at Balboa Elementary in San Diego, CA. I think that it is so important to give back to the community and what better way than to spruce up a place where students go to school? After experiencing this kind of outreach I would love to organize something like that at the local or the Minnesota level. This session gave me some great insights of things to do and how to plan something like this.

Once all of the sessions were done, all of the students who were going to attend the Representative Assembly stayed to have an NEA RA delegate orientation lunch. This was mainly to provide a way for the students to make connections with each other and see who would be joining us at the RA. After the lunch was over they surprised us and took all of the remaining students back to Balboa Elementary, where we did the Outreach to Teach, to meet the students and see their reaction. They go to school all year long and Monday they came back to a vast surprise. This was the greatest reward to all the effort that was put into the project. The elementary students had huge smiles on their faces and delivered thank you notes and pictures to every NEA student. From that reaction alone, I could see the impact that we made upon these children. That absolutely made this trip and conference worth while. I am still looking forward to learning and participating in what is left to come.

Ben Wallerus
Student Delegate
Minnesota State University Moorhead

Sunday, June 28, 2009

June 27, 2009

On June 27th all of the student members went to Balboa Elementary in San Diego for the majority of the day. We left early, and to wake ourselves up some students played games and talked with new people. The atmosphere was energetic for being so early. Once everyone was divided into their job groups for the day like painting, fixing the library, cleaning, and working on the teaching lounge, we were off!

Everyone was ready to make a difference that day. Even though it was hot we had amazing water boys keeping everyone hydrated, and were even given delicious popsicles. We were even served a Mexican lunch that was all home made. I met so many wonderful people from all over the country that I knew I will not forget. People, including retirees, Target volunteers, and local families, came to help. Everyone was working hard with a big smile on their face. I only wish I would have been able to see the students' faces when they tour their new school.

Towards the end of the day, when people were starting to finish up, people were on the four square courts and playing. The group went from eight people to about thirty. It was fun to see future teachers who worked all day be able to come together and still be able to play. The elementary staff was very grateful to have us and took many pictures. I am proud to say that the NEA organized this daily activity extremely well and had great success.

After we all bused back to the hotel everyone went swimming together in the pool. It was nice to relax with everyone and actually get to talk together about homes. We all realized that even though we lived thousands of miles away from each other, we were all very alike. Later for dinner, we were fortunate to have an inspiring man, Dr. Mark, speak to us about his school experiences. He told us to be a “why not” teacher, and do not be afraid to let the students do things on their own. He left us with an assignment to follow: 1. Show appreciation to a loved one unexpectedly, 2. Show appreciation to a teacher, and 3. Show appreciation to a stranger. I can not wait to go home and do these because I know doing the littlest things make a positive difference in people's daily lives. Even though the day was very long, I learned a lot and felt like I improved many lives in just one day. I am grateful to be given this opportunity to help and meet wonderful people.

Abbey Karth
Student Delegate
Winona State University, MN

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Hey, Education Minnesota Members & Staff!

Today is Friday, June 26th, and this is the first entry for our EMSP blog coming to all of you straight from beautiful San Diego! Needless to say, it has been a LONG day for all of us. As you all can recall, we have quite a large group of students with us here this year; the group consists of Ben Wallerus from U of M-Moorhead, Tracy Talcott from Winona-Rochester, Abbey Karth from Winona State University, Mark Schroepfer, Veronica Blake, and Bonnie Liepold from Minnesota State University-Mankato, and Laura Hillman, Chelsey Cook, and myself from Gustavus Adolphus College. Of course, we dare not forget our fearless leader, Greg Miller, the Education Minnesota field staff representative from the Hibbing/Duluth office. Today, I am just going to quickly sum up our activities from our first day out here in California at the Student Leadership Conference (SLC), and then talk about what we have learned so far.

Our day began with all of us converging on MSP International Airport from all different directions. Greg certainly had one of the longest days, flying in from Hibbing at 8:15, and waiting for the rest of us to arrive two hours later. There were only nine of us there for the flight to San Diego, as Chelsey, who is from Maine, would eventually meet us at our hotel. The flight was very nice, and in four hours (only two on the clock) we landed in San Diego. When we eventually arrived at our hotel, had no time to waste, as we needed to get registered, get settled, and get changed for our first session at 5:00 p.m. They started off with a great icebreaker, led by Phadra Williams, the organizational specialist whom we met at our EMSP Spring Conference, and another NEA representative. The activity was really entertaining, and allowed us all to meet a bunch of other student representatives from other states, and began collecting everyone’s state pins! After a raffle and some other announcements, we were given an hour to get groomed and primped for the most formal of events at the SLC, the Awards Banquet. After a couple of announcements and curious performances from Jermaine Coleman, our NEA Student President, they got down to the awards. These included events like Largest Membership Increase, Best CLASS Grant Project, Outstanding Student Member, and about 8-10 others. The ceremonies ran a little long, and our neighbors to the east (Wisconsin) pretty much made a clean sweep of the awards. After we were done, we went up to our rooms, took some pictures, and then headed to bed for our long and truly incredible next day at Balboa Elementary School for Outreach to Teach.

Our first day here was a little overwhelming. With shuttling to-and-from airports, flights, and a lot of interactive activities, it was hard to focus on much more than adjusting to our new surroundings and maybe our jet lag. Nonetheless, it was great to start seeing people like us from across the nation. With regards to the NEA at large, it’s incredible for me to see the dedication of all of these state programs, including Education Minnesota, that facilitate mere college students to travel hundreds (or thousands) of miles solely for our benefit as future teachers. It’s also ironic for me to look back at the parallels between the Education Minnesota Representative Convention in March that I was able to go to, and the SLC here in San Diego. At the MN RC, I was one of two students amongst probably 700 teachers and ESPs. Now here, there are 400 some students, and practically no adults! This is pretty illustrative of the effort that our teachers union makes to reach out to many groups of people. The sheer volume of students, coordinators, retirees, and others that we have met speaks to the power that we can have as a group if we do more to band together like we will be doing for the next 11 days. I was told today that the NEA RA is one of the largest non-governmental democratic voting bodies not just in the United States, but across the world. That’s a statistic that should impact and motivate us all as teachers and support staff to realize the seriousness of the issues we face, and the importance of voicing our opinions on them. On the same token, it is really fascinating for me as a future teacher how much a conference like this can impact my career. I don’t think I’ll ever be provided with a better networking opportunity than the SLC and RA out here in San Diego. I’ve already met so many different types of people, student-leaders and professionals alike, that have the combined power to make us not just individual teachers in our schools trying to teach our students the three R’s, but to create a connection of teachers across the nation to teach generations. It’s a powerful experience for me to see this type of movement in action.

Well, I’ve written a short novel already, so instead of continuing, I think that’ll be all I will share for now from the Student Leadership Conference and from San Diego. I hope you enjoyed the first entry, and there will be entries to come from all of my fellow Minnesota colleagues in the next couple of days. I look forward to seeing those of you who are making the trip out to San Diego for next week’s RA; safe travels and God bless!

Christopher Stewart
EMSP Student Delegate
Gustavus Adolphus College
Saint Peter, MN

Education Minnesota Student Program - 2009 All rights reserved.