UEA President steps down July 15 - Dynamic leader leaves her mark on public education in Utah
Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh has a passion for teaching.
That passion led “Mrs. G,” as she was known to her second-grade students at Salt Lake City’s Dilworth Elementary, to run for election as president of the Utah Education Association in 2010. She was elected to a three-year term that year by her fellow educators in a statewide vote and re-elected in 2013. Her second term, the maximum allowed by UEA Bylaws, ended July 15, 2016.
Her 30-plus years in Utah elementary school classrooms culminated in the Utah State Board of Education naming her the 2009 Utah Teacher of the Year and the National Education Association Foundation awarding her the nation’s top educator honor in 2010, the NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence.
Gallagher-Fishbaugh is also National Board Certified Teacher, a distinction earned by a small percentage of teachers nationwide who meet rigorous teaching criteria set by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
While her 2010 UEA election victory took her from the classroom she loved, it also gave her new avenues to express her passion for public education, to support the teaching profession and to advocate for students.
“I am thankful for the opportunity I’ve had to serve as a representative voice for our amazing Utah teachers,” said Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “The past six years have changed me in ways I could only imagine back in 2010. I have encountered some amazing educators who have positively impacted my life and instilled in me a desire to be a better person.”
During her six years at the helm of Utah’s largest association of public education professionals, Gallagher-Fishbaugh elevated the voice of teachers in policy decisions impacting Utah students. She participated on the Governor’s Education Excellence Commission, the Utah Public Education Coalition and the Envision Utah Steering Committee.
Gallagher-Fishbaugh was instrumental in convening a group of master teachers who developed a bold new vision for fostering excellence in teaching and learning for all Utah students. The policy recommendations from these master teachers was compiled into a 2013 report outlining education policy recommendations from Utah teachers. The report was shared with members of the Utah legislature.
Under Gallagher-Fishbaugh’s leadership, the UEA created the “Educators Taking the Lead” initiative, a program focused on helping educators improve their practice and become better teachers. The initiative includes training for teachers on best classroom practices, the Utah Teaching Standards, assessment literacy, and other teaching and learning topics.
A crowd estimated at near 3,000 – including teachers, parents, students, school board members, superintendents, administrators, school support personnel and many others – packed the Utah State Capitol Rotunda the evening of March 9, 2016, calling on state legislators to support public education. By some estimates, it was the largest rally in decades. “(Utah teachers) have watched class sizes creep up and student resources dwindle for years. Despite our best efforts in the classroom, the lack of funding hinders our ability to provide the education we know our students deserve,” said Gallagher-Fishbaugh as she addressed rally participants. “The end result is that we are now seeing many of our best educators leave the classroom because of increasing demands, dwindling resources and an overall feeling that our profession is no longer respected because more time is spent talking about how to fire teachers rather than how to support them.”
Other highlights from Gallagher-Fishbaugh’s tenure as UEA president include the following:
Selection as one of 21 teachers nationwide to participate on the national Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching. In that role, she testified before a U.S. Senate panel on teacher effectiveness in 2012.
Served on the National Teacher Residencies Task Force, the Workgroup on Educator Excellence and Educator Evaluation, and as a commissioner for the Council for Accreditation of Teacher Prep Programs.
The annual UEA Convention, traditionally held only for educators, was opened to the public. The October Convention now provides hands-on learning opportunities for students and seminars and workshops for parents, in addition to training for teachers.
Served as a member of the non-profit NEA Foundation Board of Directors.
Passage of 2012’s Senate Bill 64, a compromise effort to increase teaching effectiveness by providing effective evaluation of teachers and administrators. “The UEA was ‘at the table’ and an integral partner in the creation of (Senate Bill 64),” said Gallagher-Fishbaugh at the time. “Being part of the process allowed us to focus on student learning while protecting teacher rights.”
Former State Senator Aaron Osmond said, “I (was) grateful to have the opportunity to work with (Sharon) while I was in the legislature and to see (her) vision and perspective and love for the profession of teaching. (Sharon) taught me more about the education system than anyone else that I met in the education world during my time as a State Senator.”
“I personally have always appreciated (Sharon’s) willingness to come on the air and speak candidly about what is unfolding in education,” said KSL-radio host Doug Wright. “I’ve always been impressed at how (Sharon) can be so diplomatic and yet a forceful advocate for teachers,” added KSL-TV host Nadine Wimmer. And Utah Governor Gary Herbert thanked Gallagher-Fishbaugh for her “great service to the UEA, to teachers everywhere and to the public education system. We are in a better place today because of (Sharon’s) good work.”
Gallagher-Fishbaugh earned her B.A. from Loretto Heights College in Denver, her M.A. from National University in La Jolla, CA and is a member of the National School Reform Faculty.
Also concluding a six-year term in office is UEA Vice President Thomas Nedreberg. A public education veteran of 37 years, Nedreberg was elected by fellow UEA members in 2010 to serve a three-year term as the organization’s vice president and was re-elected in 2013.
Nedreberg began his education career as a fourth-grade teacher in Mesa, Ariz. In addition to teaching at the elementary school level, he held numerous positions including middle school math, science and history teacher, high school principal, elementary school principal, and various director-level district administration posts. He is currently technology director for Tintic School District in Eureka.
Nedreberg earned a B.S in elementary education from Ohio State University, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from New Mexico State University and a Master of Education degree from Brigham Young University. He is a member of the Association of Supervisors of Curriculum Development, the International Society of Technology Educators, and the Utah Consortium of Educators in Technology.
Gallagher-Fishbaugh is succeeded as UEA president by former Treasure Mountain Junior High School media specialist Heidi Matthews. Matthews was elected in a statewide vote of her public school teacher peers to serve a three-year term as UEA president. Her term began July 16, 2016.
Matthews has 28 years of public school teaching experience. She has served as an elected member of the Board of Directors of the National Education Association representing Utah since 2014 and was president of the Park City Education Association from 2009 to 2012.
Succeeding Nedreberg as UEA vice president is Cache County School District teacher Roger Donohoe. Donohoe has taught in Utah schools for 23 years and has served as president of the Cache and Piute Education Associations. He is a science teacher at Cedar Ridge Middle School in Hyde Park. The UEA vice president is a part-time position.
The president and vice president serve on the UEA’s 17-member Board of Directors, the UEA’s corporate body, charged primarily with providing direction and implementing policy. Board members full-time public school educators democratically elected by their peers. The following were elected to the other five UEA Board positions subject to election in 2016:
- Dan Pitcher, Davis School District;
- Mallory Record, Canyons School District;
- Paula Zsiray, Cache County School District;
- Marjean Wayment, Weber School District; and
- Marty Davis, Nebo School District.
View the complete 2016 UEA Election results.