Learning New Lessons: editorial by UEA Executive Director Jennifer Boehme

Five years ago, I was looking for a change in my teaching assignment. I had been at the same school for 10 years and wanted to do something different. I transferred from an upper middle class, majority white school to a Title I, highly-impacted school with a more diverse population. I learned how to build relationships with students of varying backgrounds, modify my teaching to meet the needs of these students and support students whose experiences were vastly different from my own. I taught sixth grade at this school for just four months, but I grew as an educator more in those four months than I had in the previous four years. My principal was supportive and provided job-embedded, relevant professional development. I remember thinking that this is what education should look like in all our schools.

You may not be looking for something different this year, but you likely have it. You may be working in a new school, a new grade or with new teammates. You will be working with a new group of students. You may be concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic and protecting your students, yourself and your family. With all of these changes you will be learning new things.

The 2021-22 school year has started with more uncertainty for all of us. Know your professional organization, UEA, is working at all levels with the health department, Utah State Board of Education and legislature in addressing the many issues you are facing in local schools. As you work with students this year and tend to their social and emotional needs, I encourage you to take care of your own social and emotional needs as well.

Amazing. Dedicated. Creative. Powerful. These words describe our UEA members, which is you. The past 18 months have been the most difficult in public education in my 28-year career. Your dedication to learning how to educate effectively online overnight was amazing! You tapped into your creativity in reaching out to your students when they had to learn online during quarantine or isolation last year. You used your voice as a powerful tool to bring equity of opportunity to your students.

Lessons learned this year may not be those you sought out, but you will grow as an educator. As the new UEA Executive Director, I commit to supporting you as a UEA member by promoting quality public schools for Utah’s children in cooperation with others!