The nation’s largest teachers’ union is partnering with Teach Plus to launch a selective fellowship that will empower solutions-oriented teachers, most of whom are in the first 10 years of their careers, to advise union leadership on teacher engagement and retention.
The NEA and Teach Plus, a national non-profit organization based in Boston, have selected 53 high-performing teachers and NEA members from school districts and charter schools across the country to become the inaugural Future of the Profession Fellows. During the year-long program, Future of the Profession Fellows will gain a foundation in education policy, research, and best practices from around the nation. Together, they will advise the leadership of the NEA on policies that they believe will better serve students and retain excellent teachers.
For the NEA, the partnership represents a move to engage more intensively with union members who are in the first decade of their careers. At an historical moment when teachers with 10 or fewer years’ experience are a new majority of the teaching profession, the fellowship will allow the NEA to invest in these earlier career teachers and ensure that their voices and perspectives are represented. Future of the Profession Fellows have proven their commitment to working with their union rather than apart from it, while also challenging it to evolve.
“We are excited to partner with Teach Plus to help build the next generation of teacher leaders,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of NEA. “Teachers must take the lead to ensure that every student has a qualified, caring, and effective educator in their classroom. The identified fellows will be instrumental in furthering NEA’s goal of providing great public schools for every student.”
To lead the fellowship, Teach Plus brought in Executive Director Arielle Zurzolo, who served most recently as President of Asociación de Maestros Unidos, the teachers’ union of Green Dot Public Schools in Los Angeles.
Zurzolo sees the fellowship as a step forward for making the NEA successful in a teaching profession that is undergoing significant changes and challenges. “As a former teacher and union leader, I’m a huge believer in the power of teachers’ unions to advocate for the teaching profession and be a force for change,” Zurzolo said. “I want our unions to be successful, and I believe that leading the Future of the Profession Fellowship is the best way for me to support that success. These teacher leaders are proving that being union-involved and advocating for a teaching profession that values performance and constant innovation do not have to be mutually exclusive.”
“The NEA is proving that they recognize that teachers are not a monolith, and that they value the voices of teachers who want to see their profession evolve,” said Celine Coggins, Teach Plus Founder and CEO. “By joining together to elevate the voices of these solutions-oriented teachers, we are moving toward a profession that looks to its own practitioners to be the change they seek.”
Future of the Profession Fellows come from 14 states, representing schools from Massachusetts to Hawaii. In addition to monthly virtual working sessions, they will come together in Washington, D.C. three times over the course of the year to meet with NEA leadership and other key education policy makers. The new fellowship represents an important expansion of Teach Plus’ current teacher policy work. To date, the organization has trained nearly 500 teachers to be leaders in transforming their profession through its Teaching Policy Fellowship, based in six cities nationwide.
Teach Plus is a national non-profit based in Boston whose mission is to improve outcomes for urban children by ensuring that a greater proportion of students have access to effective, experienced teachers. Teach Plus runs three programs designed to place teacher leaders at the center of reform: Teaching Policy Fellows, the Teach Plus Network, and T3: Turnaround Teacher Teams. The programs focus on demonstrably effective teachers who want to continue classroom teaching while also expanding their impact as leaders in their schools and in national, state, and district policy. Teach Plus began with 16 founding teachers from urban district and charter schools in Greater Boston. Since its inception as a non-profit in August 2009, Teach Plus has grown to a network of more than 13,000 solutions-oriented teachers in six major cities across the country. www.teachplus.org
The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professional, school administrators, retired educators, and student preparing to become teachers.