Wednesday, April 13, 2016

VEA Awards Celebrate Educators, Advocates

Our news release announcing award winners has been sent statewide. Here's what it says:

RICHMOND—Each year, Carol Bauer makes New Year’s resolutions—in August. Seeking specific ways to grow professionally, she resolves to, “transform my classroom into a lab for authentic learning experiences my students will long remember.”

A York County teacher since 1995, one way she has accomplished this is by bringing “Genius Hour” to her room. This is a program based on ideas used at Google and 3M to give employees time to be creative and do innovative research. Her fourth-graders have thrived in this format, creating model space stations and replicas of an Underground Railroad station, and conducting “interviews” with people like Thomas Jefferson and J.K. Rowling.

A parent of one of her students, who is also an executive at a local nonprofit, said, “Even with all the constraints put on teaching, she makes learning fun and exciting. She fascinates me with her presence and knowledge. Parents love to come to her class and learn with their children.”

That kind of innovation and commitment is why Bauer, a member of the York Education Association, is the winner of the Virginia Education Association’s 2016 Award for Teaching Excellence. She received the award during a dinner held April 8 at the Association’s annual convention as part of VEA’s recognition of individuals and organizations that have done great work in and for public schools.

Here’s a rundown of the 2016 award recipients:

Award for Teaching Excellence. Bauer has also earned National Board Certification, coaches a Lego League team, helped launch a school-wide exercise club, and spoken at conferences on creativity in the classroom, the use of Claymation, and other topics. She’s also been part of her Association at every level, serving as a local president, a member of the VEA Board of Directors, and as one of Virginia’s representatives on the NEA Board of Directors.

In the words of one colleague, “When she is at the helm of the classroom, no textbook is required. Just keep your eyes and ears open and get ready for a wondrous learning experience.”

Bauer will receive a plaque and a cash award of $500 and compete, as Virginia’s nominee, for the NEA Foundation Award for Teaching Excellence and its $25,000 prize.

Friend of Education Award. This honor goes to an individual or organization that, through leadership, action and support at the state level, proves to be a true friend of public education and educators in Virginia.

Martha Wood of Albemarle County has made her influence felt around the Commonwealth, both as a 34-year career educator and as an active Association member. Whenever possible, she spoke publicly and lobbied tirelessly on behalf of schools, educators and students, and held numerous leadership positions, including local Association president and member of the VEA Board of Directors.

Since her 1993 retirement, Wood has been instrumental in launching both the Virginia Education Association-Retired and the VEA-Retired Council, and she has served as president of both. Her name has become synonymous with active retired membership at both the state and national levels.

Education Support Professional (ESP) of the Year. Robbie Jones of Christiansburg Middle School in Montgomery County is the 2016 ESP of the Year. As her school’s head custodian, she’s responsible for the cleanliness of her school, opening the building every day, ordering and stocking supplies, conducting daily maintenance checks, providing security around the building, and being on call for alarm and HVAC emergencies. Not only that, she does cafeteria duty, too!

She also found time to lead a successful effort to defeat the privatization of custodial work in the Montgomery County schools, helped maintain an incentive program for ESPs, and fought for a three-year program to correct the salary scale for all school employees.

In addition, she’s served as vice president of the Montgomery County Education Association and is now the president-elect, the first support professional to hold that position in MCEA.

Fitz Turner Award for Outstanding Contributions in Intergroup Relations. This award is named for the former president of the predominantly black Virginia Teachers Association, which merged with VEA in 1967. It honors an individual or organization that’s contributed to the enhancement of human and civil rights in Virginia.

This year’s winner is Misunderstood, a nonprofit group in Halifax County with a lofty mission: to educate and train young men, promote intergenerational relationships, and help prevent juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, gang involvement, and dropping out.

Misunderstood holds monthly “talk sessions” with young men ages 10 to 18, helping them build the kind of character traits they’ll need to be positive influences in their schools and neighborhoods.

The young men of Misunderstood have volunteered at the county’s social services department, an elementary school, with Habitat for Humanity, at a fundraising event to fight sickle cell, a local hospital, and as Salvation Army bell-ringers. They hold an annual Mother’s Day dinner, learning how to dress formally and honor and serve mothers. And they even sponsor free back-to-school haircuts for local students.

VEA-Retired Distinguished Service Award. This salutes a retired educator who has made significant contributions to the growth of the active and retired Association, the promotion of public education, and the welfare of public educators.

Katherine Hairston of Martinsville was an active member of the Henry County Education Association during a long and outstanding career as an elementary school teacher, and served for four years as HCEA president.

After retiring in 1994, she organized a chapter of retired educators in Martinsville and Henry County and has been its president for many years. It’s grown to include over 60 members. She’s also known for her devoted work at both VEA and NEA conventions. At NEA conventions, she is often found planting flowers and working at schools being given a makeover through the Outreach to Teach project.

2016 Political Activism Awards were also presented to the Chesterfield, Giles, Loudoun and Prince William Education Associations in honor of their committed, public efforts to advocate for local students and schools. The Loudoun, Spotsylvania and Halifax Education Associations received 2016 Community Advocacy Awards for their participation in community partnerships and projects.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Students at Forefront of New Business Items

Reducing caseloads for school counselors, protecting vulnerable students at bus stops, and reaching out to young educators were all on the mind of VEA convention delegates Saturday morning, as they passed the final items of new business. Delegates also expressed support for additional accountability for students who are homeschooled, better assessments for young readers, and increased protections for LGBTQ students and school employees.

McAuliffe Gets Great Grades, Credits Educators for Economic Growth; Scott Talks ESSA

Governor Terry McAuliffe brought his report card to the VEA convention Saturday morning and got a resounding thumbs-up from the crowd of almost 700 educators, who greeted him with a standing ovation.
                “There were five education bills that concerned you,” McAuliffe said, referring to the recently-completed General Assembly session. “I’m proud to tell you that I’ve now vetoed all five. I will be a brick wall to protect public education.”
                He also pointed to some $900 million in extra funding for public education. “We cannot backtrack on that,” he said, “and it won’t happen on my watch. You have a partner in this administration. I know the challenges you face every day, and I know the inspiration you are to our students.”
                McAuliffe gave the bulk of the credit for Virginia’s growing economy and advances in our schools to educators and the VEA. “You made a huge difference,” he said. “You came to committee meetings, you contacted legislators, you shared your ideas. You’re the reason we’ve been able to announce so many economic growth projects. You’re the best investment we can make in Virginia.”

                The governor was preceded to the podium by Congressman Bobby Scott, who spoke about his work on the Every Student Succeeds Act. “We made sure there was flexibility in ESSA,” he said, “but with flexibility comes responsibility. It will be important for VEA to work with the governor’s office, the General Assembly, and the Virginia Department of Education.”

Friday, April 8, 2016

Jim Livingston Elected VEA President

Jim Livingston, a math teacher from Prince William County, has been elected president of the Virginia Education Association. Livingston, currently president of the Prince William Education Association, will begin his two-year term August 1.

Run-Off Contest to Decide VEA Presidency; Fedderman Elected Vice President

Jim Livingston of Prince William and Sarah Patton of Covington will compete in a run-off election Friday afternoon for the VEA presidency after finishing as the top two vote-getters in the first round of balloting.
                James Fedderman of Accomack will be the Association’s new Vice President, winning that election over Donald Wilms of Chesterfield.

                Both Gwen Edwards of Prince William and Barbara Powell of Virginia Beach will serve as ESP At-Large Alternate members of the VEA Board of Directors, with Edwards the first alternate.

Delegates Call for School Nurses, Present Legislative Awards; Gruber Gives Final Convention Report as President

Delegates used the morning session of day two of the 2016 convention to call for a full-time, licensed nurse in every school building, create implementation teams both at the state and local level for the new Every Student Succeeds Act, and propose that failing test scores for students with excessive absences not be reflected on a teacher or school.
                VEA members also presented “Legislative Champion” Awards to eight members of the General Assembly in gratitude for their support for public education during the 2016 session. The recipients were Senators Barbara Favola, Ben Chafin, Jill Vogel (above)
, and Tommy Norment and Delegates Jim LeMunyon, Tim Hugo, John Bell, and Terry Kilgore. In addition, Sen. Chafin was named VEA’s Legislator of the Year.
                Outgoing VEA President Meg Gruber also gave her final convention report, reminding delegates that almost no improvement in public education ever comes easy, and, in the words of Garth Brooks, we must “do what you gotta do.”

                She also reviewed some highlights of her four-year presidency, noting the success of the Put Kids First rally last year, the growth in organizing training opportunities available to members, the additional investment in K-12 schools made by this year’s General Assembly, the coming implementation of a statewide health insurance plan for school employees, and the successful work done on behalf of numerous education-friendly candidates for public offices.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Garcia Fires Up Delegates; Election Candidates Speak

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.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

McAuliffe, Garcia, Scott Highlight 2016 Convention

Virginia Education Association members from across the Commonwealth will celebrate progress in public education, press for still better schools for our state’s young people, and meet with Gov. Terry McAuliffe this week in Richmond at the 131st annual VEA convention.
“This event offers us a chance to discuss and work through some of the most important issues we face in our schools every day,” says VEA President Meg Gruber. “Our delegates have been elected to represent their colleagues, the people doing the hard, hands-on work of public education. We look forward to hearing from the governor, and anticipate a meeting that will be productive for both our students and our educators.”          
Some 700 convention delegates will also chart the Association’s course for the year ahead, discuss policy resolutions, debate new business items, and elect new leadership. The convention opens Thursday evening, April 7, at the Richmond Convention Center and runs through Saturday, April 9.
McAuliffe will speak Saturday morning, and Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, will deliver the convention’s keynote speech Thursday evening. U.S. Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott will also provide greetings Saturday morning.

Another Delegate Assembly highlight is the awards banquet on Friday evening, at which the Association will honor deserving supporters of public education in Virginia.