Urging educators to unleash the power of their stories and the truth of what’s happening in public schools, NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia brought the nearly 700 delegates in the room to their feet, assuring them that if they spread the good news, the public would line up to support them.
“Against all the odds, because of you, the hard-working people in our schools, minor miracles happen in our schools every day,” said Garcia, a former Utah Teacher of the Year. “Our power comes from the passionate hearts of our members and knowing we’re fighting for something that’s both moved us to tears and made us laugh.”
For too long, Garcia said, the public has been fed false information. “They hear about our needs and the people leaving the profession, and they’re told we’re failing. But there’s a truth inside each one of us that needs to be heard—our stories, our vision, our voice.”
She went on to point out that in the U.S., we’ve never had more high school students than we do today taking AP tests and graduating from high school having earned college credits. Also, some 85 percent of families in our country choose to send their children to their neighborhood public school.
Prior to Garcia’s keynote address, Jennifer McClellan, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Richmond, welcomed delegates to the state capital, calling educators “heroes to whom we entrust our children every day.”
VEA delegates will also be electing new statewide leadership at this convention, so candidates for those offices were given five minutes each at the opening session to speak during the opening session. Three members are vying for the office of President: Jim Livingston of the Prince William Education Association, Joey Mathews of the Loudoun Education Association, and Sarah Patton of the Covington Education Association. There are two candidates for Vice President: James Fedderman of the Accomack Education Association and Donald Wilms of the Chesterfield Education Association. In addition, two candidates are competing for an Education Support Professionals At-Large Alternate spot on the VEA Board of Directors: Gwen Edwards of the Prince William Education Association and Barbara Powell of the Virginia Beach Education Association.
Carol Bauer of the York Education Association ran unopposed for re-election to the NEA Board of Directors and will serve another three-year term.