Now What?, by UEA Vice President Roger Donohoe
That was the first question I asked myself when I began this position. The first few months have been a great experience, far more satisfying than I ever anticipated. My first realization was just how involved UEA is in every aspect of education in Utah. We are always present and those who represent us are vocal and well respected.
Heidi and I were invited to meet with Governor Herbert in August. He believes in education and it was reassuring to see the sincere respect he has for teachers. The most challenging thing he said was that teachers must get involved in the political process and he suggested how we could do that. Our association meets regularly with policy makers at every level of government to make our voices heard. More than ever I understand that UEA leads the fight for students and education in Utah.
The larger we are, the more we will be heard. We have schools that have 100 percent membership and schools that are under 50 percent. Statistics argue that such disparity is expected, but realistically, there is no difference in teachers at one school and those at another. We all share the same vision. We are all there to help kids.
I began my career in a district where every teacher was a member of the UEA. That happened because of one person, Thelma Whittaker. Thelma did more for the teaching profession than I could ever express, but what she did the best was go to each new teacher, application in hand, and explain to them one-on-one what UEA does and why they should join their professional organization. We all joined; even a former Wal-Mart assistant manager. People never buy what we do until they understand why we do it. Thelma was successful recruiting because she understood “why.”
UEA is the strongest force in Utah education and what I have seen these last few months has anchored that belief. But we can be stronger. When I was a kid I loved the joke, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer: “One bite at a time.” So, how do we strengthen our voice?
With 800 schools in Utah, recruiting one new member per school would lead to incredible growth. There is not a school that can’t get one new member and if every member would set a goal to recruit one friend, every teacher in Utah would be in UEA. Imagine the strength that would give teachers and our students.
Not everyone needs to be a president or a building representative, but there are amazing results when everyone does their part. Each member of the UEA can stand up and explain why we are here and why we speak up for kids and our profession.
Let’s define ourselves as the voice of education. If we do not, someone else will and we may not like what they have to say.
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