Anna Picard had an opportunity to experience unions and solidarity on a national level last summer when she attended the 2019 NEA-RA in Texas. Read the Q&A below to learn more about her time there and how you can be nominated to attend a state or national RA!
How long have you been teaching in KUSD, and how long have you been a member of KEA? I have been teaching in KUSD for 6 years, and I’ve been a member of KEA since my second year of teaching.
What are some of the ways you have been involved with your union? I have had the opportunity to be a summer organizer, been involved with going to school board meetings, been a representative at Lincoln, and now I’m on the KEA board!
You had the opportunity to attend the NEA-RA last summer. Can you talk about what the RA is and how you received the opportunity to go? The NEA-RA is the Representative Assembly, so delegates from all of the state associations gather to make decisions on amendments to NEA’s constitution and bylaws, and new business items (NBIs). Anyone could submit NBIs, then we as a group of delegates would debate and vote on them. (It’s also more fun than that just made it sound! You’ll sit with the group from Wisconsin, participate in different social events, get to meet tons of new people from all across the country, and get to explore a city – next year the RA will be in Atlanta.) You can also hear speeches from NEA leaders and from the national teacher and ESP of the year, participate in an art build, join a caucus relating to your interests, and much more.
An example of an NBI that we passed: “NEA will advocate for limitations on class sizes, caseloads/workloads, and proportions of classes with students with special needs by creating and distributing model language for state legislation.”
I had the opportunity to go because an opening became available – KEA typically sends 3 people to the RA; all you would have to do for next year is nominate yourself when the e-mail gets sent out and then there is an online ballot vote. Delegates do receive a stipend from WEAC and KEA to cover the costs of going!
What was one of the most interesting things you learned at the RA? I learned a lot more about how NEA uses our dues money and all of the programs and advocacy that is done. I also saw how easy it is to have your voice heard as a member; since anyone can submit amdendments or business items, if you have an idea, you can go for it and it will be brought to the whole delegation. It helped me feel more connected to being a WEAC and NEA member, not just a KEA member.
Do you think attending the RA helped make you a better educator and advocate for your students? Definitely, I was able to meet NEA members from all over the United States. Getting different perspectives helped open my eyes to the issues that students and educators are facing. A big part of the RA was discussing and voting on new business items, the majority of which are directly related to advocating for public education, and as a delegate I had the chance to vote and have input on things that will effect myself as a teacher and my students.
How does attending statewide or national events benefit educators and students here in Kenosha? Going to WEAC and NEA events is a great way to get involved and have a say in how our dues money will be used. If you’re passionate about something, I encourage you to speak up about it and see what impact we can have on the local, state, and national levels. Also, moving beyond just Kenosha helps people connect with others from different cities or states who you may never have met otherwise, but who probably share the same concerns as you. Attending WEAC or NEA events connects you with those people, and, as we know, there is power in numbers!
What’s one thing you would want to share with someone who might be interested in attending the RA next year? I would say, definitely nominate yourself to be a delegate! It is a week over the summer, and it is over the 4th of July, when I know many people have plans. But it was so inspiring to be in a room of 6,000 delegates and hear directly from NEA leaders. Also next year is a big year, as there will be elections for the new NEA President, Vice President, and Secretary/Treasurer! It’s hard to describe the energy of over 6,000 educators who are passionate about public education all in one room, and even harder to describe the sound of the majority of those educators literally shouting out “aye” to vote to pass an NBI — so, I hope to see more KEA members eager to experience these things in person in the future!
Anything else to add? If you have any questions or want more info about the RA, please feel free to reach out to me! I feel really strongly that at least one of our delegates each year should be a first timer; it’s an experience you won’t forget!
Nominations for the WEAC and NEA-RAs are now open. Nominations for delegates are due by Wednesday, April 1 at 12 Noon. An electronic election for nominated candidates will directly follow nomination submissions beginning Thursday, April 2. Only KEA members are eligible for nomination.
Click here to get more information and to nominate yourself or another member as a delegate for the WEAC-RA and/or the NEA-RA.