Saturday, March 20, 2010

Words delivered to the NJEA Delegate Assembly, 3/20

Here I am with Wendall Steinhaur, the VP of the NJEA and my new, Teacher of the Year Ring!

Here I am speaking to the delegates!

Good morning! It is my honor to be here today with our NJEA delegates. I want to recognize my husband Joe, daughter Melynda and granddaughter, Olyvia who are here cheering me on today! I’m delighted to be receiving my Teacher of the Year ring, which will serve to commemorate this amazing time of my life.

It will also remind me of my connection to you, to the NJEA and of all you mean to me. I will wear it and feel lucky enough to be a teacher, to live a life in service to the young and to share their dreams and energy.

We all know that we are here because someone believed in us. Someone saw, in rough form, the committed adults we have become. At least one person took it upon him or herself to share with us a life story or the hard-won lessons of education. Someone saw a light in our eyes. Someone believed that we could become “the change we want to see.”

On March 13th, our President, Barack Obama, said moving and important words about our profession. He proclaimed our nation’s need to prepare, support and encourage teachers to stay in the field and he committed his administration to “treat the people who educate children like the professionals they are.” “Our future,” he said, “is determined each and every day when children enter the classroom, ready to learn, brimming with promise.”

These are vital words to remember when we teach and when we fight for our dignity, professional worth and continued advancement.

All of this will help us create a path towards promise for the next generation because how we are treated as teaching professionals has everything to do with the children. We are men and women raising families, going to graduate school, people who are trying to create a decent middle class life – the life we have worked for in the real world of our classrooms, with the real children we care about.

Like all New Jersians, we need a secure professional future – the one we were promised by our government, a future we trusted, a promise we believed in. We have made sacrifices to contribute to our pensions and have reworked our health benefits because, contrary to the hostile public debate right now, we do care - we care very much indeed.

So today, as I stand before you as your representative, I want to say that I am honored to know you. I carry your hard work and message out to the world and I have chosen to stand up for you, during these hard times. It’s not easy speaking truth to power. It’s not easy to stand up for the rights our forbearers have won to transform this profession into what it is today.

I grew up with the stories of my grandfather and his brothers who were Irish immigrants and wire lathers, who – I am told – marched and shouted till they were hoarse, on the streets of New York, for their union rights. I remember and appreciate the passage and sacrifices that these immigrant ancestors made so that I could be educated, so that I could hold my head up high and unbowed.

In a similar way, I know that the privileges I enjoy today as a teacher exist through the enormous efforts of the teacher leaders whose sweat and tears have made it so.

Thank you to the NJEA delegates, to the executive board and the whole NJEA team, whom I have gotten to know this year. I want too thank, my husband, Joe, who always supports me at every step of this journey. He says that he is “the man behind the woman,” but without his encouragement, I would not stand as tall, as fearless and as tough.

I am humbled, grateful and happy to be your representative. I only hope to honor your service and to shine a light, with my award, on teacher leadership all throughout our fine state of New Jersey.
Thank you!

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