Membership Provides Comfort, Inclusivity and Much More

DeDe Marshall admits that when her membership in the American Association of Educators lapsed a few years ago, she felt a bit lost.

“I was with AAE for several years, and then I dropped my membership and it felt like I didn’t belong to anything,” she said.

She was without membership or support of any kind for several years and said, “I was uncomfortable doing that.”

She is no longer uncomfortable. Marshall, who has taught for Westside District 66 in Omaha for 22 years, the last 21 at Swanson Elementary, has now come full circle and is pleased to have done so. She has rejoined her professional education association and today feels fully supported in her teaching by the Westside Education Association and the NSEA.

Early in her career, Marshall joined the Westside Education Association and NSEA. But when Marshall and her husband began thinking about starting a family, they tightened the family budget and she left WEA and NSEA for the AAE.

A common theme heard from those who leave NSEA is the “need to save money,” said Jenni Benson, NSEA president. Benson has advice in that regard.

“You might save a few dollars in the short run, but there are two serious considerations,” said Benson. “First, there is real, tangible value and benefit in having membership in NSEA, from professional development to the purchasing power supplied by NEA Member Benefits.

“Second, you have protection through NSEA for your most valuable possession: the career you poured thousands of dollars and years of your time into.”

‘Never Really Sure of Coverage’

Those points fed some of the unease that made Marshall uncomfortable when she was without Association membership. Then, last year, during a membership campaign at Westside, Marshall was asked, and rejoined WEA and NSEA.

“We have a great building rep here in Maggie Person. She’s talked a lot about membership,” said Marshall. That comment points out another clear benefit of belonging to NSEA – representatives in every school building in the state, in addition to the 18 organizational specialists NSEA has stationed across Nebraska. Each organizational specialist is assigned to a set of local associations and works with leaders and members in those school districts.

While with the AAE, Marshall said she “never felt really sure that I would have any kind of coverage, any kind of support” that could compare to that offered by WEA and NSEA.

She did call AAE about her membership fee “a couple of times and I couldn’t talk to any person. It was a lot of ‘Please press two’ or ‘What is your reason for calling?’ and that kind of thing,” she said.

Today, she cites the WEA’s work with her district administration in making educator voices heard in the decision-making process concerning the pandemic as a benefit of membership.

‘I Feel Safe’

Marshall said she’s also received information on local issues from the WEA, has participated in meetings and webinars with WEA and NSEA and listened as members from other local associations have discussed member rights and the work of NSEA in that arena.

“That’s just another whole level of inclusivity – that’s the kind of thing I was looking for,” she said.

Marshall is working to convince a colleague to join her in the WEA and NSEA.

“I’m trying to get her to join because anything could happen. You could be the hardest worker with the best reputation, and it just takes one incident to end it,” she said.

“I just feel safe having membership.”