Empowered Educators Create Empowered Students – Legislative post by UEA Advanced Policy Ambassador Hunter Clapsadl

Legislative report submitted by UEA Advanced Policy Ambassador Hunter Clapsadl, sixth-grade English/language arts teacher at Jefferson Jr. High School in Granite School District

The week I attended UEA Educator Day on the Hill was my first time ever being on the Hill and I was in full-blown panic mode. I didn’t know what to say, how to effectively contact my representatives, or the difference between a committee and a floor meeting. To be embarrassingly transparent, the week of EDOH I had to watch the renowned Schoolhouse Rock ‘How a Bill becomes a Law’ video (you know the one) and discuss how bills even work with my partner. It was humbling to say the least. I don’t say this to bring attention to how little information I retained from my high school government courses, but to tell folks like me this: the state legislation can be more accessible and less intimidating than you might think.

During my Day on the Hill, I was able to meet with both of my legislators by coordinating with their interns. My Senator, Kathleen Riebe, invited me to sit on the floor with her and get to know one another after I initially introduced myself. My Representative, Carol Moss, made the time to make contact with me to meet and celebrate the sponsor dropping House Bill 234. All I did to gain access to my representative was text them and their interns, and just like that we were having face-to-face conversations.

As someone who was (and to be frank still is) intimidated by the overwhelming sense that I lacked the knowledge to participate in political discourse, I think realizing my personal power was my greatest resource this session. As I discussed upcoming education bills with my partner, I became overwhelmed. I said to my partner, “How can people even keep track of all of the bills that are introduced during the session? I am so focused on education bills I don’t even know what else is being introduced in the legislature!”

My partner’s response? She told me that most of the folks in our legislature are probably in a similar boat. I am not an expert on things like climate change, or public infrastructure, or COVID relief, but there is one thing I am absolutely the expert in: education. As teachers, we are the experts in our fields. We see what the daily classroom experience is. We know our students’ needs, their desires, their deficits, and their strengths.

The folks on the hill are pulled every which way to make the best decisions for their constituents in numerous areas of expertise, and who better to help them understand education issues than teachers themselves. YOU are an expert in your field. YOU are the voice of your students. YOU are the person who can make a difference.

No matter your confidence in the political sphere, I encourage you to use your voice and find your power. If you’re a newbie like me, welcome! I am excited to find our voices and create change together. If you’ve been advocating for our students for what feels like forever- thank you. Empowered educators empower our students, and I don’t think there is anything more powerful than that.