By Amanda Menas
For eight educators across the country, 2019 was their year. Teachers and support staff ran for local and state wide offices to represent their students and fellow educators, canvassed and made phone calls across their communities, and won.
These eight educators have another commonality: They all participated in the NEA’s See Educators Run training to establish the first building block to running local, statewide, and even national campaigns.
The program began in 2016 with the goal of helping educators make the jump from advocacy to public service and has since hosted hundreds of educators at two and a half day programs across the country. Already, dozens have taken office.
“I was all over the place with my pitch before the training. This training helped me develop a clear message with three main points to focus on,” said Heather Anderson-Morrow who was re-elected to the Des Moines School Board in Iowa this year.
Anderson-Morrow says she upped her game at the training, gaining skills ranging from fundraising basics to communications tactics, volunteer recruitment and field operation strategies, and policy talking points for the campaign trail.
“I also appreciated listening to teachers who were elected officials. This helped me gain more insight into my own run for office,” said Anderson-Morrow, a former elementary school teacher in the Waukee School District. Martin Heberling III, an educator from Ohio, participated in the training was also re-elected to the city council in Amherst, Ohio.
Educators looking to begin or continue their campaigns can participate in the trainings anywhere in the country they are available. Eric Pickens, newly elected to the Sequim School Board in Washington, attended the training in Los Angeles.
“It wasn’t until I attended the See Educators Run training that I finally gained the confidence and knowledge to launch a campaign to run for office,” Pickens said. “I found this training to be a critical component to my success. Not only did it provide a wealth of knowledge and tools, but it also provided the opportunity to network with other educators who had similar goals to my own,” said Pickens, a first grade teacher.
Other educators learned the importance of building their network of educators to support their campaign goals through election day.
“It was a wonderful feeling when I was able to share with my fellow program alumni that I had won my election because of my experience with See Educators Run,” said Rose Walker after her election to the School Committee in Auburn, Maine. She believes the number one takeaway was the importance of building a support system that will push and challenge the candidacy to be the best it can be.
“The See Educators Run program connected me with a community of individuals that were all seeking the same thing, to win their campaign,” Walker said. “The diversity within the community helped us become aware of opportunities and challenges a campaign can face. This program was very beneficial to anyone who is running for office, small school committees, city council, state legislature, etc.,” said Walker, an educational technician at an elementary school.
Incoming officials Carrie Panepinto and Nancy Boatright Hopper both learned the importance of connecting one-on-one with voters and improving their messaging.
“I learned that I needed to use the door-to-door, ‘talk to the people’ approach. I was able to learn what to say and to be confident with what I was running for,” Panepinto said. “I especially learned to stay focused on me and what I was running for rather than talking badly about my opponent. There was so much to take away and help me have a successful write-in campaign,” said Panepinto who was elected to the East Burgh Borough Council in Pennsylvania. Hopper was elected to the Morgan County School Board in Colorado.
Anderson-Morrow agreed that an essential learning tactic used in the training to help with messaging were the simulations.
“When I worked with others to develop a strategic campaign plan I was able to learn from others’ ideas,” said Anderson-Morrow. She continued, “Speaking in front of others has always been hard for me, but doing this during the training helped me reflect upon how I could improve my message.”
Other educators who participated in the training and won their elections include Lisa Zergarpur in Virginia, and Shannon Edwards in Kansas. They, and other participants and educators, can stay connected through the program’s Facebook group and learn more about best practices, sample budgets, fundraising ideas, and more.
Start to make a difference in your community by learning from these educators who ran and won their races. Learn more at https://educationvotes.nea.org/see-educators-run/