Sunday, June 28, 2009

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

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