Millennial educator uses NEA training program to become a leading voice for her students

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By Kate Snyder

The NEA Ed Justice team had the chance to catch up with Stephanie Tellez two years after her participation in NEA’s Minority and Women’s Leadership Training Program. In addition to kicking off a new school year, Stephanie is celebrating her acceptance into the California Teachers Association UniServ Staff Intern Program, taking organizing classes through Harvard University, and developing monthly parent trainings to engage the families of her special education students. She still carved out some time for us to talk about how the leadership training experience helped her become the leader she is today.

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How has your engagement with the Association changed since your participation in MLT/WLT?

I discovered a passion for organizing and recruiting, especially finding ways to connect with millennial members.

The training pushed me to take the first steps in becoming a leader within my union. In less than two years, I’ve been elected twice as an RA delegate, become chair of the catastrophic leave committee at my local, become the contact person for women’s issues, placed on various committees, and been accepted into the California Teachers Association Intern program.

Why should leadership and social justice activism matter to educators?

Educators have a unique opportunity and responsibility to help shape the minds of the future. It’s our duty to ensure that all students, regardless of zip code, have access to an amazing education and that will make the future better for everyone.

stephanie-tellez
Stephanie Tellez

What do you most hope to accomplish for your students, fellow educators and your community?

I want to bridge the gap between teachers and parents. My goal is to get more of my colleagues to not only encourage parent participation but to embrace it. The community we serve benefits when parents are actively involved in their child’s school. Empowering parents to request much needed support from the district not only benefits students but has a positive impact on the community as a whole.

What would you like to share with other educators, and particularly young professionals like yourself, about how the Association can help them achieve their professional and personal goals?

As an educator who didn’t become an active union member until the end of my eighth year teaching, I would say don’t wait to get involved. Reach out to your association to see how you can contribute. Go to the monthly rep council meetings to become aware of what’s going on within your own local.

I’ve learned that my association can support me in fighting to meet my student’s needs and that it takes a team to make change in a district. You have a voice and can advocate for yourself and your students. Your voice is one of the most important tools a young educator possesses.

Interested in opportunities like the Minority and Women’s Leadership Training? Learn more here.

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