Trust the Wisdom of the Body - by NEA Directors Ryan Anderson and Sue Dickey


By NEA Directors Ryan Anderson and Sue Dickey


Ryan Anderson

Sue Dickey

Comedies begin in trouble and end in peace. Although the 2012 NEA Representative Assembly could fit the commonly accepted literary definition, since it literally began “tempest-tossed” by intense storms and unrelenting heat and, after all, did end in peace, it was no comedy…no joke. After storms splintered hardwood trees strewing Washington, DC, with debris, cutting power to many, unrelenting heat and humidity drove us to find our resiliency…to complete the work we went to do.

We went under no illusions that our work would be easy. We knew it would be difficult…the most difficult R.A. ever. We were facing monumental changes in structure, processes and budget. “For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.” (Benvolio, Romeo and Juliet)

At every level, our leaders led impeccably. They delivered powerful messages to consider and called us to action. President Dennis Van Roekel was cool, calm…in control.

Utah’s own Lily Eskelsen sang an inspiring Star-Spangled Banner and led us assuredly as second in command. John Stocks stepped up to the plate for his first time speaking to R.A. Delegates as our Executive Director and hit it out of the ball-park. Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle and all associated with the Budget Committee withstood barrages of questioning about necessary fiscally-responsible budgetary changes. States’ caucus leadership did the essential preparatory work daily to make sure delegates had the information we needed. Finally, how many of us ever thought that in our life-times the NEA would be addressed as a delegation by both the President and Vice-President of the United States of America?

A super-duper majority rose to their responsibilities as representatives from leaderships’ calls to action. Most delegates met their duties and responsibilities – their “call to serve” – actively, thoughtfully and respectfully. Once again, R.A. delegates proved the time-tested and respected adage, “Trust the wisdom of the body.”

Utah was literally and figuratively up-front, from the beginning to the end and beyond. In fact, before the R.A. began, a few of our leader delegates worked on New Business Item #26 which passed unanimously. Our Utah Caucus was able to take positions on all of the R.A. business before we hit the floor, in part because of the early morning work of a committee that previewed and discussed the business before presenting ideas to our Utah Caucus.

Because Utah has an NEA leader (Vice President Lily Eskelsen) as a delegation member, we receive priority seating on the R.A. floor. The majority of our delegation realizes this responsibility and lead by positive example with engaged presence. Our UEA President and Vice-President were both honored when Sharon met with Vice-President Biden backstage and Tom was asked to sit on stage during his speech.

From our delegates’ post-R.A. comments, one can read how impressive NEA’s R.A. is in directing our Association through these difficult times:

“(I enjoyed) the new relationships I was able to make and the learning of new information I had no idea about.”

“As I listened to (Teacher of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki) speak, all I could think of was ‘this is our message.’ Our charge is to continue to be the very best we can every day because what we do is remembered.”

“Thank you so much for the opportunity to represent Utah at the R.A. I was very conscious of the fact that I was here on members’ dues. Given that, I took my role as delegate seriously and tried hard to participate and learn as much as possible to better help the school I represent.”

  • “I feel much more confident in my ability to make decisions and voice my opinion…Thank you for the opportunity to better get to know other fabulous teachers.”

  • “I learned that a huge legislature can be remarkably efficient.”

  • “I felt good when we collected money to help the teacher that had to pay for his own substitute when serving in the Middle East.”

  • “To see the whole democratic process at this scale (was a great experience). I am still in awe how well this works for an assembly of delegates this size.”

  • “I had a great time (at the R.A.). I made some great connections with fellow school employees. I wish all (UEA) members could experience this!”

  • “To be in the midst of like-minded educators felt like a warm, supportive blanket.”

  • “I learned that you need to study an issue from all sides to make good decisions. I learned to listen with an open mind when I thought I knew my position on an issue. I often learned new information which changed my mind.”

  • “I loved watching and being part of the democratic process and seeing how well it works.”

  • “I was surprised with the passion certain people have about some things.”

  • “I appreciate (NEA President Dennis Van Roekel’s) passion for teacher and public education. It is so evident in his voice. (All the speakers were) very inspirational, motivating and made excellent points based on each person’s experience.”

  • “I felt good when the Utah delegation could laugh and joke as well as be serious about business.”

  • “Although the work on the floor is ling and often draining, I do appreciate being given the opportunity to do the work and that the NEA does its work in a democratic manner.”



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