by Brian Washington
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This is the first of several profiles of the finalists for the 2015 NEA Political Activist of the Year award. The finalists were chosen based on the amount and quality of political activism they’ve undertaken in the past year. Delegates at this year’s NEA Representative Assembly, being held next month in Orlando, will choose the Political Activist of the Year. The finalists are the cream of the crop, leading the way in election campaigns and legislative advocacy efforts through actions such as sending letters and emails to elected officials, calling fellow members, and knocking on doors to speak up for their students and public education.
Our first nominee is Kansas’ Anna Moon Bradley, a high school English language arts teacher with more than 16-years of classroom experience. Bradley, who teaches at West Franklin High School in Pomona, KS, has been a member of Kansas NEA for her entire career, beginning as a student member at Emporia State University. She’s also held advocate/leadership positions within the Association at the local and state levels. For Bradley, teaching was a “natural fit for her.”
EV: What motivated you to become a teacher?
AMB: I had wonderful teachers who fostered my skills very early on, allowing me to take on special projects in the classroom to teach ideas. As a high school junior, I attended the Future Teachers Academy at Emporia State University and explored the different aspects of the education career. That opportunity solidified my decision to become a teacher.
EV: What issue(s) drive you to be so involved?
AMB: I just want to help people and do what’s best for kids. I am the person and professional I am today because others supported me and provided me with resources. I want to do the same for others.
Everything we do in our classrooms is affected by government and politics. It is our professional responsibility to understand how our schools are funded, how legislation impacts curriculum and assessment, how the working and learning conditions are affected by legislation changes.”
“Our classrooms do not exist in a vacuum—we can’t just close the door and ignore politics. Our children are impacted by everything that trickles down from D.C. to our Statehouses to the central office. We have to fight for what is best for them. If we don’t—who will?
EV: What advocacy work do you enjoy the most?
AMB: I have been a facilitator for KNEA since 2002. I have trained professional development councils, emerging leaders, and local leaders. I enjoy this advocacy the most because I am providing our members with the support and resources they need to be successful advocates. Often, the response to the information is, “Wow, I didn’t know that! That helps me so much.” That’s empowering and reminds me why I do the work I do.
EV: How did you get started being politically active?
AMB: My interest in politics goes back to my family. We always had some involvement with local politics in my hometown, Burlingame, KS. My interest broadened through my journalism work with my high school newspaper and then The Emporia Gazette (college newspaper).
EV: How do you make time to be so involved?
AMB: I just do. It’s a priority in my life because our elected officials and state legislation impact every aspect of my daily life at home and in my job. I really do eat, sleep and breathe the work of the Association. My family supports that, and they are often right next to me helping.
EV: What would you say to an NEA member who is not currently politically involved?
AMB: I would ask them why they joined the Association and what their role in the Association is. The conversation has to start with some common ground, and, of course, I would share the same. I would also share with the member the myriad of opportunities we have to be politically involved. Often times, our members just don’t know what to do, where to start, who to ask. I simply say, “Come along with me.”
EV: Why should the delegates choose you for the 2015 NEA Political Activist of the Year award?
AMB: The work that I do with my Kansas NEA team is just what needs to be done to do what is best for our children and for educators. I believe it starts with me having simple conversations with family, friends, and colleagues about our schools. Then those people have simple conversations with their family, friends and colleagues—and it just keeps growing. This is the influence I have, and in it is great power. We want to do what’s best for our children. But ultimately, it starts with me—being an engaged leader, supporting my colleagues, and collaborating with members to further public education and the education profession.
EV: What are the best ways for members to get involved in activism online?
AMB: The most important step is to simply be informed. Through NEA, members can sign up through Education Votes and get email updates on the latest issues. They can also respond to alerts through that system, which matches up their address with the appropriate Congressional representatives/senators. Members can also follow NEA through social media.
At Kansas NEA, members sign up for “Under the Dome” email updates. Similar to the NEA system, members can connect with their Kansas legislators through the “Under the Dome” website. Recently, Kansas NEA launched a Join Us activist campaign which combines social media, text messaging, and email.
In addition to the Association-related websites and social media, many individual members use their personal Facebook pages and Twitter accounts to keep people informed about political happenings and to connect with lawmakers.
EV: What particular campaign first got you involved in activism with NEA?
AMB: The 2012 Kansas legislative election is when I really dug in and knew my role had to intensify to make an impact. I moved from writing a few postcards and letters to the editor to canvassing door-to-door, writing thousands of postcards, making hundreds of calls, and making campaign appearances with recommended candidates.