‘Celebrate who you are’ UEA leaders told at Leadership Academy


More than 100 UEA leaders and staff heard presentations, participated in workshops, and shared ideas at 2011 Summer Leadership Academy

“If we want to be a force for good, then coming together in this association is the best way to do it,” said former UEA president and current NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen as she addressed more than 100 UEA leaders and staff attending the 2011 Summer Leadership Academy. Eskelsen was the keynote speaker, kicking off the two-day conference at Zermatt Resort in Midway. The event agenda included speakers, workshops, entertainment and opportunities for state, local and UniServ leaders to interact and share information.

“What we have goes beyond race, religion, politics, gender (and) nationality,” Eskelsen said in her opening keynote address. “You and I are part of that brotherhood and sisterhood of advocates. We see our schools as more than a place of employment…that school becomes our cause.”

Eskelsen conveyed information about attacks on public education in other states and what she described as a “sophisticated, national, coordinated, secretive campaign” to discredit public education and its advocates, including teacher unions. She urged educators to become involved and passionate about fighting for the education profession and also for the needs of students and their families.

“I am convinced that celebrating who we are is our best defense in this time of attack. Have the courage to be proud of what you do,” she concluded.

(View Lily Eskelsen’s complete address to the UEA Summer Leadership Academy here)

UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh shared findings from recent focus groups with parents and grandparents of Utah K-12 students. “The purpose of these focus groups was to determine the perceptions Utah parents have of Utah public schools and the Utah Education Association,” she said.

Key conclusions from the research showed that parents want more accountability for the resources given to public schools and that the role of the UEA in the education process is not generally recognized or is misunderstood. Gallagher-Fishbaugh said she viewed the research as “a unique opportunity to change the conversation around who we are and what we do as an organization.”

“As educators who belong to our local, state and national affiliates, we must be more vocal about our successes and be ready to hold one another to high standards,” she said. “It is not time to be meek and quiet. It is time to educate, celebrate and elevate.

After showing a video highlighting the U.S. Navy Blue Angels flying team, UEA Executive Director Mark Mickelsen led a discussion on “the power of teamwork.” He also asked participants to consider and discuss the possibility of a UEA road trip in September 2011. “Based on what we heard during the focus groups, there is a need for us to get our message out, focusing on—among other things—what is happening in the classroom, how we are helping students and how tax dollars should be spent,” he said.

Each UniServ drafted a detailed plan for a UEA road trip in their local area.

A highlight of the conference occurred as a result of a Salt Lake Chamber Board of Governors meeting coincidentally being held in an adjacent room. After an invitation from Gallagher-Fishbaugh to have Chamber Executive Board member Mark Bouchard address the Academy, the Chamber invited the UEA president to address their meeting.

Salt Lake Chamber President Lane Beattie then asked if he could say a few words during an Academy luncheon. The entire Chamber Board of Governors stood before the UEA leaders while Beattie shared his feelings about Utah educators. “Utah teachers and Utah businesses share many common goals,” he said. “We must work together to get teachers the resources they need.” He concluded with an ovation for teachers to which Academy participants stood and responded in kind.

“(Beattie’s remarks) were significant for Utah public education and for the UEA,” said Mickelsen. “We’ve worked hard to build relationships with the business community and it appears those efforts are having an impact.”

Summer Leadership Academy participant comments:

  • “This has been a great conference, helping to connect the different pieces of the picture and teaming to fit each piece in its proper place.”
  • “The sessions were well worth my time. I received information that will help our members.”
  • Thank you for a great conference! (It was) informational and so much fun. I enjoyed all aspects of it.”
  • “Not only was this informative, but it was FUN! I enjoyed being with everyone.”
  • “Thank you for a great conference. I appreciate the information, ideas and great support from everyone!”
  • “I received lots of helpful information about membership, how to get and use members, and benefits for new and old members.”
  • “This was a helpful, informative and FUN conference.”

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