Wisconsin Teacher of the Year joins other top educators at ‘Teach-In for Freedom’ in El Paso

Sarahí Monterrey at the El Paso Teach-In

Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year – and WEAC Region 7 member – Sarahí Monterrey joined dozens of other state teachers of the year and hundreds of NEA members last weekend for the “Teach-In for Freedom,” an all-day event organized by Teachers Against Child Detention (TACD) to protest the inhumane detention of children at the Mexican border and the criminalization of immigrant families.

“The Teach-In in El Paso was a powerful experience because teachers were united to be a voice for the over 10,000 children who are in detention centers across our country,” Monterrey told weac.org. “This was not a protest but rather an opportunity to educate the public about immigration policies and the effects of these policies on children. 

“It was powerful to come together with educators from across the country who shared lessons on various aspects of immigration,” she said. “There were also community organizations present who are doing tremendous work to advocate for immigrant rights, and they provided excellent resources to the public.”  

Monterrey, interviewed by PBS News Hour, said the impact of the administration’s immigration policies reaches deep into her classroom in Waukesha, Wisconsin. She said she sees effects of trauma in her classroom, with students saying they are sad, can’t concentrate or have stomach aches.

It’s very difficult for students to learn,” Monterrey said. “And it’s very hard because, sometimes, even as an educator, it’s hard to find the right words of what to say, because, sometimes, I do feel helpless.”

With support from WEAC, Monterrey traveled to El Paso to participate in the teach-in, which was led by National Teacher of the Year Mandy Manning. The goal was to shed light on the impact of child detention policies on the border, which TACD calls a “moral disaster.” The teach-in focused on the harm immigrant kids experience when separated from their families, and aimed to educate the country on why these families have fled from their home countries and how Americans can welcome them legally and contribute to their ongoing care and integration. 

NEA Today also covered the event, noting that educators and others have been outraged by the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy of separating immigrant and refugee children as young as 18 months old from their parents.

“Detained in more than 100 government detention centers across 17 states, these children have been denied access to public education, and likely will suffer irreparable, lifelong psychological damage, educators said. The practice also violates their fundamental right to seek asylum,” NEA Today reported.

In honoring Monterrey first as the State High School Teacher of the Year and then as Wisconsin’s representative for National Teacher of the Year, the Department of Public Instruction noted that, as a child immigrant from El Salvador, Monterrey recognizes the pivotal role teachers play in students’ lives.

“The power in making students feel welcome and safe cannot be underestimated,” she said. DPI noted:

Monterrey’s work on inclusion includes the visible, “Dreamers Welcome” and “This School Welcomes You” posters. Not as visible, but just as important, are her extra efforts to ensure a curriculum that is representative of various backgrounds so students feel inspired; her work to improve family communication so parents understand they are part of their student’s success; and her outreach to ensure that English learner (EL) students have access to extracurricular activities and support to be ready for college.

Watch the PBS News Hour report on the El Paso Teach-In:

Amid immigration debate, top teachers gather to protest child detention

Some of the nation’s top teachers recently gathered in El Paso, Texas, to speak out against the government’s practice of detaining children who cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Dismissing the notion that they shouldn’t get involved in political advocacy, teachers said they see some U.S. policy and procedures as “abusive.”

Read the NEA Today report:

At the Border, Teachers Protest Detention, Separation of Children – NEA Today

On a makeshift stage in El Paso, Texas, former Texas Teacher of the Year Leslie Anaya delivered a message to the roughly 15,000 immigrant children who are held captive in federal detention centers, where they are denied an education and separated from their mothers, fathers, and anybody else who loves them.

Read more about Sarahí Monterrey:

Sarahi Monterrey named a 2019 High School Teacher of the Year

MADISON – In a surprise ceremony at her school today, Sarahi Monterrey, an English Learner teacher at Waukesha North High School, was named a Wisconsin 2019 High School Teacher of the Year. State Superintendent Tony Evers made the announcement during an all-school assembly.

Baraboo educators send strong message: There is no room for hate

WEAC Region 5’s Baraboo Education Association members knew they wanted to send a strong message after a widely criticized photo of students who appeared to make a Nazi salute went viral in November.

The image raced across social media platforms on a Monday morning. “When your week starts with a public rebuke from the Auschwitz Memorial Museum in Poland, you know you’re in a bad place,” said Kari Nelson, an English teacher at Baraboo High School and BEA President. “We immediately recognized that our response, as a union, had to acknowledge the world’s shock and distress, but that it also needed to be a visible message in our respective school buildings.”

The BEA Executive Board sprang into action, promoting a “No Room for Hate” T-shirt fundraiser to benefit the Auschwitz Memorial Museum, the first of many groups to condemn the photo. The T-shirt’s stark message? No room for hate. This classroom. This school. This community. This state. This country. This world. 

The BEA pledged a matching gift of up to $500, but after 180 members of the Baraboo School District’s staff joined the fundraiser, the final donation rose to $2,100.

“The Auschwitz Memorial Museum was one of the first international organizations, dedicated to educating the world about anti-Semitism and the horrors of the Nazi death camps, to publicly rebuke our students, school, and community and to offer their educational resources to us,” Nelson said. “All of Baraboo is working together to learn and heal from this experience – which is great to see. Our union wanted to do something immediate and tangible to help.”

Teachers, administrators and support staff wore their T-shirts on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7.

“These symbols continue to be taboo because of the agonizing history they represent. We needed to let our students know that we will be vigilant when it comes to discrimination, bullying and hate in our buildings,” Nelson said.

“After all, with no room for hate, we have lots of space open for acceptance and care and love.”

More Resources:

The Wisconsin Education Association Council works to give teachers resources so they can foster hate-free schools where all people are respected and celebrated. Here are some of the many programs and resources WEAC and the NEA offer:

Black Lives Matter at School
Diversity, Equality and Social Justice Resources
Combatting Islamophobia
Safe and Welcoming Schools for LGBTQ+ Youth
Creating LGBTQ Inclusive Schools
Virtual Book Study on Racial Justice
Take Action on Racial Justice
Combatting Institutional Racism

If your local is interested in trainings for educators, or partnering with your district on any of these initiatives, email us at communications@weac.org.

Advocacy by Eau Claire educators leads to postponement of school board action on proposed benefit changes

At a meeting packed with nearly 100 members of the Eau Claire Association of Educators and supporters, the Eau Claire School Board voted unanimously Monday night not to cap health and dental benefits at the current 2018-19 rates and postponed changes to other post-employment benefits (OPEB) for the time being.

Many educators at the meeting spoke out against the proposed changes.

The Eau Claire Leader Telegram reported that ECAE President Mark Goings told the board that while he understands the district faces budget challenges, punishing educators is the wrong way to go.

“You are being asked to balance the books in a system that’s rigged against us,” Goings said. “Staff is the greatest cost, but staff is also the district’s greatest asset.”

The Leader Telegram also quoted Dan Wilson, a special education teacher in the district:

“We have been there for the district,” Wilson said, “but will the district continue to be there for us? If reasonable changes need to be made, then take the time to get all the facts and the data and the information. Then at that point, let’s talk about it.”

Janesville EA members help deliver groceries to needy families and individuals

Janesville Education Association members took leadership roles over the weekend in the School District of Janesville’s Bags of Hope event, delivering groceries to needy families and individuals. The event provided approximately two weeks of groceries to 350 families and students who qualify for free lunch. The Janesville Education Association posted the photos below on its Facebook page.

Read more:

‘Bags of Hope’ brings holiday groceries to hundreds of Janesville families

JANESVILLE, Wis. – The Dollar General warehouse in Janesville was busy with work on Saturday morning as hundreds of volunteers packed food as a part of the 10th annual Bags for Hope event. The event, put on by the School District of Janesville, delivers roughly two weeks of groceries to 350 families of students in the district who qualify for free lunch.

WEAC locals are successful in 98% of recertification elections

Ninety-eight percent of 2018 fall recertification elections for WEAC locals passed, according to results released by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission. In all, 229 of 234 elections were successful.

The overwhelming support for local unions mirrors similar results in recertification elections since 2011.

“In the local associations holding recertification elections, educators show tremendous support for the union,” said WEAC President Ron Martin, a middle school teacher. “Unions play a very strong role in their local schools and partner to ensure the best for students.”

Recertification is a hoop created by the Legislature to limit employee rights. It requires that an association interested in being named the district “bargaining agent” pay for an annual election and the threshold for victory is half of the eligible voters voting yes, plus one. That’s a bar even the American president doesn’t have to reach to be elected. All educators, union members and non-members, vote in recertification elections and, if an educator does not vote, the state counts it as a vote in opposition.

Local associations across Wisconsin determine whether they will seek recertification based on their own unique circumstances. Whether or not a local chose to participate in recertification, and whatever the outcome of the vote, it’s important to stress that the union still exists. The union exists anywhere educators unite collectively to improve their schools for their students, expand their professional skills, and advocate for shared interests like school safety and opportunities for all children. No legislation can take away that right.

The complete election results are posted on the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission website.

Labor leader Phil Neuenfeldt dies

A great leader of the Wisconsin labor movement, Phil Neuenfeldt, has died. Neuenfeldt, president emeritus of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, died in his home November 4.

“Phil Neuenfeldt stood side-by-side with WEAC members during our most tumultuous struggles, always insisting that whether in the public or private sector, union brothers and sisters stand together,” said WEAC President Ron Martin. “As Phil would expect, those of us who mourn his passing will carry on to advance solidarity in Wisconsin.”

Martin urged WEAC members to re-commit themselves to getting out the vote in advance of Tuesday’s election.

“Phil was with us on the steps of the state Capitol back in 2011, and vowed never to give in to inequity and division,” Martin said. “Let’s do him proud by rolling up our sleeves in these final hours of the campaign to bring home a win for the working people of Wisconsin.”

Here is a brief clip of Neuenfeldt speaking on the steps of the State Capitol during the 2011 uprising (thanks to Citizen Action of Wisconsin):

Rivers Falls educator Maggie Watson uses personal touch to advocate for her union

River Falls educator Maggie Watson, a member of WEAC Region 1, displays one of the handwritten posters she created for each district staff workroom explaining the benefits of an active union. Maggie says a handwritten poster will always get teachers’ attention in a way that printed advertising won’t.

– Thanks to the Region 1 Connections newsletter for sharing this great photo

NEA Today: Why We Are Red for Ed

This spring, educators, joined by students, parents, and community members, donned crimson shirts and took to their state capitols with a message: Our students deserve better than tattered textbooks and leaky ceilings. Educators deserve better than bottom-of-the-barrel pay and having to pay out of pocket for basic classroom supplies.

The team at NEA Today took a look at how moments in several states across the country turned into a national movement we call #RedForEd, and how that movement will propel us to the ballot box and beyond.

The walkouts in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado, and North Carolina were a siren call across the nation. And importantly, people are listening.

Check out the new NEA Today feature: “Why We Are Red for Ed.” While you’re there, take the #RedForEd pledge and join millions of voices fighting for our nation’s public school students and educators.

It is now up to each of us to help the #RedForEd movement continue. We must deliver pro-public education voters and candidates to the polls this fall. In the long term, we must protect the nation’s public schools and transform our unions.

Support Kenosha Education Association members in their efforts to win respect – and a fair cost-of-living pay increase

http://bit.ly/KEArespect

At the September Kenosha Unified School Board meeting, educators respectfully shared their concerns with the district’s offer of a 1.25% cost of living increase. In a spontaneous and unplanned response to insensitive comments made by board member Gary Kunich at the meeting, educators walked out of the board room.

The KEA followed up with the Facebook video message below and this statement:

As people who dedicate their lives to shaping positive futures for our students, teachers deserve to be addressed with more respect than with veiled threats of layoffs or being told to research other districts if they are unhappy.

When you disrespect the Kenosha Education Association, you are disrespecting the dedicated teachers, education support professionals, social workers, counselors, librarians, and therapists of Kenosha who work to serve ALL of the educators and students of our public schools.

KUSD is asserting that, on average, teachers would receive a 3.18% increase. This average is being calculated by combining a 1.25% cost-of-living increase with level and tier movement on the salary schedule.

KEA continues to believe that all educators deserve a full 2.13% cost-of-living increase to keep up with inflation, in addition to movement on the salary schedule. The two are separate, not interchangeable, and both necessary to competitively compensate teachers employed by KUSD.

Cost-of-living increases are essential to maintaining the value of the salary schedule and ensuring that teachers are maintaining the same standard of living as everyone else. Level and tier increases are critical to reward and retain current teachers and to attracting new educators.

You can support the Kenosha Education Association by using the following link to send a message to KUSD board members and superintendent: http://bit.ly/KEArespect.

Evers congratulates Wisconsin’s 2018 Blue Ribbon Schools

From the Department of Public Instruction

State Superintendent Tony Evers Monday congratulated eight Wisconsin elementary schools that received National Blue Ribbon School honors from the U.S. Department of Education. 

“Congratulations to our 2018 Blue Ribbon Schools,” Evers said. “This national honor recognizes the efforts of students, staff, families, and the school community to work together to close gaps and make sure all kids achieve so our students graduate college and career ready.” 

Nominated in January, the schools completed an application and underwent a national review process. Wisconsin’s 2018 Blue Ribbon Schools are: 

  • Bannach Elementary School, Stevens Point Area Public School District; 
  • College Park Elementary School, Greendale School District; 
  • Flynn Elementary School, Eau Claire Area School District; 
  • Gibraltar Elementary School, Fish Creek, Gibraltar Area School District; 
  • Iron River Elementary School, Iron River, Maple School District; 
  • Parkview Elementary School, New London School District; 
  • Prairie View Elementary School, De Soto Area School District; and 
  • Roosevelt Elementary School, Kenosha School District. 

Nationwide, 349 schools will be recognized at the November 7-8 awards program in Washington, D.C. Award winning schools are honored in one of two performance categories. Exemplary High Performance Schools are among each state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests. Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools are among each state’s highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a schools’ subgroups and all students over the past five years.

Since its inception 36 years ago, the Blue Ribbon Schools Program has recognized 8,800 schools across all states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and the Bureau of Indian Education. The 49 private schools that will receive recognition this year were nominated for the program by the Council for American Private Education.