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Who will be the 2017 Activist of the Year?

Brian Washington

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Are you a delegate going to the NEA Representative Assembly? If yes, find out all the fun things you can do to vote for your finalist for Activist of the Year! Click here ›

Here at Education Votes we try to put a face on some of the activists who are out there working hard for the 90 percent of our nation’s students attending public schools.

Well, today, we’re going to introduce you to six of the hardest working activists out there—the six educators who are up for the prestigious honor of NEA’s 2017 Activist of the Year.

The finalists were chosen based on the amount and quality of activism they’ve undertaken in the past year. Delegates at this year’s NEA Representative Assembly, being held next week in Boston, will choose the Activist of the Year.

These education activists are the cream of the crop, leading the way in election campaigns, legislative advocacy, and volunteering in their community. Among some of the things they’ve done—sending letters and emails to elected officials, calling fellow NEA members and education colleagues, and knocking on doors to speak up for students and public education.

The NEA 2017 Activist of the Year will be announced on Wednesday, July 5. Stay tuned to this space to find out who this year’s winner will be. Here’s who’s in the running this year and what they want you to know about why they do what they do:

Joyce Coney-Lacy, Ohio
H.S. Mathematics Teacher


I love education. I love this country. We are a unique nation made up of people from diverse backgrounds. Opportunities exist here that don’t exist anywhere else. Many have fought and died throughout the years to protect this country and what it stands for – for all people. I’m a dreamer. I dream about the possibilities. I believe that we must act with the future in mind.


Vickie Costello, Oregon
H.S. Social Studies Teacher


I think educators need to be involved in the local community so they can influence school board elections. It is also important to build relationships and put a face on ‘the local teachers’ union’. Once the community sees educators as their neighbors, they can collaborate with us for better outcomes…I care about students and want large corporations in Oregon to pay their fair share.


Andrew Crisman, Colorado
Middle School Music Teacher


Public education—true, community-based, public education—is the last, best place for us to work together as a society. We don’t all go to church anymore. We don’t all attend the same public events, or read the newspaper. All of us, however, have some touchpoint to the public schools, and have a responsibility to educate our future. It is this vision—of community coming together around our kids—that drives me, and my family.


Alvia Littleton, Kentucky
Elementary School Teacher


Since the age of twelve, I wanted to be a public school educator and vote. When I became a public school educator, my realization that politics pulled the ‘education’ purse strings ignited my passion for activism. I joined NEA and made education activism a top priority.


Ronda J. Mays, North Carolina 
School Social Worker


I will never stop speaking up for the needs of children and others. Every student in the United States of America deserves to have equitable access to a quality education as well as the necessary resources needed to succeed, including qualified educators, books, and the latest technology.


Selena Valdez, Texas
Elementary School Teacher


Being active in marches and advocating for others has been instilled in me from a young age. One of my first memories is getting to miss school to march alongside my mother to the Texas Capitol to support Governor Ann Richards in her election. For years, I watched my father give school board speeches on the Austin PBS channel. Hearing his passion to represent his fellow educators and demand action helped to build that same passion in me.

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