We Work in Support of Your Teaching

By NSEA President Jenni Benson & Executive Director Maddie Fennell

NSEA is working to enhance the pathways into the teaching profession.

That was one of several updates we delivered to 300 of your colleagues who served as delegates to the annual Delegate Assembly in Lincoln last month.

Delegates’ work at the Assembly is important. They confirm what the Association stands for and develop plans and goals for the coming Association year. 

And, we shared with delegates some of the work we do each day in support of your teaching. We believe your teaching is the most important work in the world.

We’re using this space to deliver a joint message to all NSEA members, to highlight some accomplishments of the past year, and to build some momentum for next year.

We’ve arranged these highlights from the last year into the five categories of the Association’s Strategic Plan.

Social Justice

With the aid of a grant from NEA, we provided professional development on a Challenging Racism program to 14 members over 11 weekends. Four of those members will train in Virginia this summer and, using another grant from NSEA, next year we hope to have the capacity to train more trainers in the program by 2020-21.

With the aid of another NEA grant, we provided tutoring to nearly 150 college students studying to become teachers over the past year. The tutoring was focused on readying those students to pass the Praxis Core exam required for entrance into Nebraska’s colleges of education.

NSEA also supported Social Justice retreats in the Association’s Capitol and Tri-Valley districts this year.

We are also in the third and final year of another grant from NEA designed to grow Educators Rising – formerly Future Educators of America – chapters in Nebraska. In particular, the focus of the grant is to encourage growth of new and existing chapters that would produce a high number of teachers of color. While nearly 30 percent of Nebraska K-12 students are children of color, only about 2 percent of our classroom educators are teachers of color.

We’ve had great success. Where there were about a dozen Educators Rising chapters in the state three years ago, there are about 30 today, with 24 of them very active. Further, the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s teacher education program has reached maximum capacity for the coming year, and 30 percent of students there are students of color.

Partnerships

In this category, we are working diligently with national and local affiliates to strengthen our organizational capacity.

We are offering training for higher education members, for education support professionals, for active, retired and student members. That was demonstrated at Delegate Assembly, with 30 sessions of professional development. That will be demonstrated this summer at NSEA University – three days of nearly 180 sessions of professional development.

This effort increases our value to members and gives educators across the state additional reasons to join – no other association or organization offers the professional development, combined with advocacy and other benefits, that NSEA can offer. Period.

Advocacy

We have been working quite hard for educators in this arena.

NSEA’s field staff have noticed a frustrating trend of personal improvement plans for educators across the state being written not to improve teaching skills and methods, but to get educators to quit the profession. We worked with NSEA Attorney Scott Norby and Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop to

introduce legislation to make it possible to grieve improvement plans. At a public hearing on LB537, we introduced into evidence some especially egregious improvement plans, which opened the eyes of several senators. LB537 remains in committee, but we are hopeful it will advance.

We held three Advocacy Conferences last fall, educating local negotiators about the latest tools and methods for bargaining your salary and benefits. We continue to work with members across the state, when needed, on cases where their rights have been infringed upon or violated.

Finally, we advocate on a statewide basis through a partnership with the Nebraska Broadcasters Association. For a very minimal cost, we placed more than 30,000 public service announcements on Nebraska television and radio stations in the past year, all supporting children, teachers and public education.

Political Action

We’ve had another banner year, starting with the election last fall of 17 of 23 recommended candidates for Legislature. Those electees included Democrats and Republicans with one thing in common: support for public education.

Since January, we’ve read more than 700 legislative bills, testified in 22 legislative hearings, submitted letters on another 46 bills and held lobby days attended by well more than 100 members. It is quite a site to see the capitol rotunda filled with teachers!

In addition, Executive Director Maddie Fennell has had one-on-one meetings with all eight members of the State Board of Education and 35 of 49 state senators. And many of them she has met with more than once.

We’re also involved closely with several stakeholder coalitions, including Nebraskans United, Education Coalition, Rebuild Nebraska, Nebraska Child Health and Education Alliance, Better Together Coalition and the Human Dignity Coalition.

Representation

We’ve also worked to make the Association governance more responsive to members. We’ve streamlined district budgets, aligned Bylaws documents for the six governance districts, will host local officer training in July and corresponded on a regular basis with local officers.

We’ve conducted several surveys of leaders and members to take the pulse of the Association, and we always welcome member input and member questions. This is, after all, your organization.

So here we are, nearing the end of another school year, closing in on the end of another Association year. We do this work for you, but we could not do it without you. Thank you for your membership, and for all you do for children and public education in Nebraska. Best wishes for a great summer!