MSEA’s 2017 Summer Leadership Conference at Salisbury University (July 18–21) brought together activist members from across the state to build the skills they need to fight for change and progress in public education. Eight different three-day schools focused on advocacy, conflict management, contract bargaining, leadership development, empowering leadership, grassroots organizing, union organizing, and restorative practices.
Below, you can meet some of the newest Summer Leadership Conference graduates and hear about why they came, what they learned, and how they plan to use their new skills. Interested in attending SLC next year? Stay tuned for information in the coming months on MSEA’s website and social media about next year’s schools and registration opportunities.Cheryl Dembrowski (Montgomery County), Advocacy School
I learned so much about what advocacy is and what it means to be an advocate for another member. The instructors were great because they were so experienced and have so many stories — complicated stories that you’d never really think you’d encounter, but they taught us how they worked through them.
The biggest benefit was the role play work. We were each given a case and we had to look through our contract and really break it down and think about what we would do in that situation. We then acted it out as if we were in a meeting with our principal advocating for a member. It was very really hands-on and we got to apply the knowledge we had just learned.Bryan Trueblood (Prince George’s County), Emerging Leaders Academy
The biggest thing that I gained at MSEA’s Summer Leadership Conference is how we can empower ourselves by self-advocating and in doing so become activists. We need to press forward on the fight we signed up for. Whatever it is that brought us to the profession should also be what is driving us through the profession. It’s been a wonderful experience sitting in the classroom with like-minded individuals who are so passionate about different issues but compelled by a common drive to move forward.Laura Cromwell (Washington County), Leadership School
As a member of the board of directors, my biggest takeaway from the Leadership School is a new emphasis on creating stronger relationships and connections with our building reps. To do that, we need to have direct one-on-one conversations with them and find out what we can do to make that connection more meaningful and productive. We need to see new faces and bigger numbers.Terri Wyatt (Cecil County), Conflict Resolution School
I learned how to approach someone in a higher position in a way that can produce results, not confrontation. And I learned how to use that opportunity to build a relationship with that person as a stepping stone to improving the work environment.
I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned to teach others how to handle situations — especially those where they’ve been caught off guard. Sometimes it’s better to step back and out of the situation and review the details before you approach that person in a higher position.Dwayne Hancock (St. Mary’s County) and Charlene Haynie (Charles County), GO Team School
I’m here because of great teachers like Charlene Haynie — one of my teachers at Lackey High School. We’re here at the MSEA Summer Leadership Conference representing two different counties, but our goals are the same. She empowered me as a student by helping me see history as it affects ‘we the people.’ Understanding that drives me to fight for public education now and provide the best future we can for our students.Holly Stewart (Washington County), Conflict Resolution School
This is my first year of teaching and my first year on the board of directors at WCTA. I’m involved because I am new to the teaching profession and my husband’s grandfather was an active union member and encouraged me to find my voice through my union.
I was a stay-at-home mom for 10 years and during the last four years, I got my teaching degree. I want to find my voice and I want to find it professionally. Our organization has taught me how to approach my work in a professional way, not an emotional way. We need to fight for the things we need for our students but there are right and wrong ways to do that and I want to model that.Claudette Clarke (Prince George’s County), Organizing School
What I’ve learned is the need for a union. I’ve already shared the articles I received about what’s happened in Wisconsin regarding the loss of fair share and what it means to the teachers’ rights there. If you have no union you are really at the mercy of the administration.Kayla Rishell (Frederick County), Professional Issues School
I’ve gained a lot of confidence. I am just starting the restorative practices process and we are beginning to implement that into our feeder schools so that our elementary, middle, and high schools are working together to try to start pushing it into our entire county. I really think I’ve gained some more skills and strategies for ways I can prepare my staff to have a more restorative mindset.
That‘s the biggest thing that I’m taking away is pushing that it’s a mindset — a philosophy. Bottom line is that it’s what’s best for our kids to try to encourage them and break down those barriers that we have and build our community and relationships in our schools.
I chose my Indivisible Howard County tee-shirt as my artifact illustrating why I am a member of MSEA’s Grassroots Organizing Team. Joining Indivisible Howard County was my first venture into politics. I was frustrated at the direction of our country after the presidential election, especially the cuts to public education. I’m using this opportunity to make connections among educators, the community, and elected officials and policy.
I want to learn more about the political process and how to get people elected on the local, state, and national level, how to help with campaigning, and learn more about the legislative process so I can educate my team about how we can make changes.
“We need to fight for the things we need for our students.” was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.