Being a teacher means instilling a lifelong love of learning in students and providing them with the tools and support they need, and it also means advocating for students, public education, and our profession. The NEA’s recent “Black Student Leader Day” was all about exposing aspiring educators to lobbying as well as grassroots organizing for racial and social justice.
This kind of outreach to aspiring African American teachers is essential at a time when the number of black teachers is declining.
More than 100 college students attended the program from several campuses, including American, Bowie State, George Mason, George Washington, Howard, and North Carolina A&T State Universities, Bennett and Salem Colleges, the University of California, and the University of the District of Columbia. They heard from U.S. Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC); NEA Vice President Rebecca “Becky” Pringle, my good friend and colleague and an outstanding middle school teacher; poet and student activist Mecca; and Umi Selah, co-founder of the Dream Defenders, a Florida-based civil rights organization focusing on education for youth of color, voter registration, and criminal justice reform.
Becky told the aspiring educators that NEA members “are the voice of the education movement” and reminded them that as teachers of color, their work is fundamental to our nation’s success.
“As part of an organization that is taking its rightful place—leading the way in fulfilling the promise of America—you must always focus on the win and take that next step as an activist…as a leader,” she said.
The students heard from NEA executive council members, state leaders, and local officers, who offered wisdom and support and asked thought-provoking questions, such as, “What does self-care look like for organizers who live the struggle and lead in the community every day?”
Judging by these aspiring educators, the future of students and public education is in great hands.