I am Becky Darling, Tooele Education Association Representative, and our district’s first New Member Organizer. I’m a later bloomer when it comes to teaching, starting my career in my late 30’s. I’ve been teaching in the only district I’ve known, Tooele County, for the past 13 years. I remember seeing my Executive Board at my new hire orientation all those years ago and knew I needed to be part of the association. Coming from the corporate world, I knew that there was strength in numbers, but as a new teacher, I didn’t know how to get my voice heard. Fast forward a decade and I had the wonderful opportunity to work as a Utah Teacher Fellows, and then as our district’s first New Member Organizer.
My experience as a New Member Organizer has been incredible. I feel I’ve learned so much, but also that I’ve only scratched the surface of knowledge. I’m excited to help mentor the next New Member Organizer from Tooele County. One of my favorite parts of being a member organizer was the collaboration that occurred between organizers not only in Utah, but across the nation. Hearing about the successes of other organizers helped me form a plan for my own district as well.
I had the opportunity to go to the NEA Year-round Organizing Conference in Portland, Oregon. This is where I really learned a lot. I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn from organizers who have been working in the field from all over the nation. I have pages of notes on ways to increase involvement with members and on how to motivate non-members to join. From new teacher showers to lunchtime chats, to pool parties, there were so many amazing ideas from an incredible group of people.
The support that UEA provided to me as a member organizer was always encouraging. Even when things didn’t go as planned, those that helped in our training and organizing were extremely supportive and easy to approach. I know I started off slowly, but soon learned about tools to help in member recruitment and how to boost member engagement.
As a grant proposal, I would want to spend more time in the local schools visiting new teachers. Providing them with a new teacher survival kit (office supplies like, sticky notes, pens, a stapler, white out, and snacks of some sort) and information on the association. The goal would be to give them a person outside of their school bubble for support. I would also want to check in through email or cards and give them positive affirmations and make sure their year is going well. The grant would be used additionally to pay for a substitute if needed for the school visits.
As the new member organizer applications are opening again, I would highly recommend anyone who wants to make a difference in their district and association to apply. I’m a stronger member and teacher because I was a new member organizer.