by Dmitriy Synkov
“When we chose to become educators, we made a commitment to serve others,” Anthony Daniels said in 2008. Back then he was a recent graduate from Alabama A&M University, with a master’s degree in special education and recently elected to represent 62,000 students on more than 1,100 campuses as the chairperson of the National Education Association’s Student Program.
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Beginning next year, Daniels will assume a new role, that of representative for Alabama House District 53. Daniels, who won with 78 percent of the vote, will be sworn into office in January not only as an accomplished education activist, but also as a former educator and steadfast advocate for teachers and students.
Daniels has taught third and fourth grade in Alabama and fourth and fifth grade at a Native American reservation in New Mexico.
“Having taught in those diverse settings within public education, I have a much wider lens. And even prior to my career as a teacher, serving on the policy side of public education as student chairperson at the NEA has given me more insight, trained me to be a leader and gave me first-hand knowledge about public education to share with noneducators and legislators.”
Daniels understands that teaching is as much of a calling as it is a profession and urges those who share this calling to expand their passion to a higher level. “I know that as an educator, I impacted the lives of a number of children in Alabama as well as New Mexico, but as a lawmaker, I will have the opportunity to change the lives of thousands more over the course of my career.”
He is confident that his background gives him a nuanced understanding of the public school system and the importance of clear communication between teachers and elected officials. “As someone who’s been in the classroom, I am hopeful my fellow legislators will listen to what I have to say when it comes to education,” he adds.
Daniels is optimistic about more educators running for office and believes teachers bring credibility to the political arena that few other professionals provide. “I’ve always had tremendous respect for educators because of how much they care about their students,” he says. “So to have someone with that kind of heart and passion for helping people representing you should give people a sense of security.”
As state representative, the 32-year-old Daniels plans to focus on improving the livelihood of education professionals, from increasing teacher salaries to advocating for a living wage for education support professionals.
It is important to understand that often times we forget or fail to acknowledge all the work that educators and personnel put into our schools. So I would like to say to anyone out there – any educators, any person or parent – I want you to support and encourage your educators. And for any teachers out there, I urge you to stay the course and continue to teach at the highest level possible, and to continue to care about your students and not compromise the quality of education at our schools.