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NEA convention invigorates Madison teachers

Wendy Tibbs, (from left) JoAnn Taylor and Annie Williams take a break on Day 3 on the National Education Association convention. (CONTRIBUTED)
Wendy Tibbs, (from left) JoAnn Taylor and Annie Williams take a break on Day 3 on the National Education Association convention. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Wendy Tibbs and JoAnn Taylor from West Madison Elementary School and Annie Williams from Rainbow Elementary School were among 10,000-plus delegates at the 93rd National Education Association (NEA) convention.

Teachers at all levels, retirees and even bus drivers met at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

“Because NEA provides free, current and trend-setting professional development, I consider it a professional organization,” Tibbs said. “They also provide lobbying for teacher’s issues, so many will view it as a union. In theory, I thought unions had outlived their usefulness; however, with the way teachers have been attacked in the past couple of years, nationally, I am rethinking that belief.”

Convention delegates set platforms for the coming year. Some Alabama teachers “were sent” like Tibbs from voting by her peers. Others attend as officeholders in local education affiliates.

Each morning, the Alabama educators met as a caucus to briefly discuss the day’s agenda. “We considered as many viewpoints as (possible) and voted as a group to support, oppose or offer no opinion,” Tibbs said.

Ideas supported by the majority became platform ‘planks.’ The Alabama teachers supported a letter campaign to state governors for legislation to authorize “mandated reporters the authority to turn over a child suspected of abuse to authorities when we suspect the child is in imminent danger,” Tibbs said.

Their agenda had 100 new business Items, scores of resolutions and many amendments. “We heard from both sides about the Common Core debate and about testing. (No one) was much in favor of high-stakes testing, although we all agree formative assessment is useful for student-centered decisions,” Tibbs said.

Attending the convention was “more about furthering the profession and upholding public education for all students than about individual teaching practices,” Tibbs said. She brought home “a renewed sense of professionalism and hopefulness.”

“I can assure you that not one speaker was not compassionate and empathetic to student needs. Not one,” Tibbs said.

Tibbs, Taylor and Williams will share their convention experience with the local Madison Education Association.

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