Education Votes periodically profiles educators who advocate for their students and for public education both inside and outside the classroom. These educators believe that in order to give their students the best possible education, educators must reach out to parents and lawmakers and play an active role in addressing the issues that affect student well-being.
by Félix Pérez/image by Christopher Hubenthal
Angie Sullivan, a first grade teacher in Las Vegas, isn’t shy when it comes to acting on her passion for her students and standing up for her profession. She attends rallies, organizes meetings, sends emails, connects with other activists through social media, goes on lobby visits, and more.
But don’t ask Sullivan to talk about herself or her political activism. She’d rather cast the spotlight on others, preferring that attention be focused instead on the students she serves.
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Clark County School District, where Sullivan teaches, is the fifth largest district in the country. Twenty-three percent of the district’s students are limited-English proficient. Many of those students are DREAMers — brought to this country at a young age by their parents — or have parents who are aspiring Americans.
For the past several months, Sullivan has been organizing with other educators, community organizations, DREAMers and parents to urge elected officials in the U.S. Senate and House to pass comprehensive immigration reform. “I have students coming to me looking for answers on how they can keep their families together. That’s not a situation students should be in. I don’t think members of Congress understand how much of a burden it is for DREAMers. They live their lives in the shadows, afraid that when they come home from school someone they love will be gone.”
DREAMers are a part of America. DREAMers are my students. I dream with them for social justice and progress toward a comprehensive immigration reform that creates a path for our students to remain in their country and continue contributing to the diversity that is our American community.
Sullivan understands that some educators are reluctant to wade into the highly charged issue of immigration reform. “Teachers are good people who go above and beyond to help students. They shouldn’t listen to the talking points and jargon. Become informed, share the information with your students, and let DREAMers know they are welcome in your classroom.”
Sullivan recognizes that achieving political change can be frustrating and slow-moving. “We don’t have money, but we have the people on our side. We’ll continue to help DREAMers have a voice so they can have justice.”
In a video message to Senator Dean Heller and Representative Joe Heck, both of Nevada, Sullivan spoke to what motivates her to be an activist. “I am very interested as a school teacher in making sure the most vulnerable in our society and the most vulnerable that I work with daily are able to have the opportunities that American promises all its citizens, especially our children.”
For Teacher Appreciation Day this year, Sullivan sent an open letter to Nevada state legislators. She gave voice to what educators everywhere would like to say to their elected officials: “So as you decide to legislate – could you please ask someone in the CLASSROOM their opinion? Please ask my union. Please ask an educational leader. Please encourage the school boards to hire educational professionals – not union-busting businessmen in disguise.”