"Making A Difference" by Dan Nelles

I started getting actively involved in the ATA on December 13, 2007.  Normally, I don’t reminisce about dates like this, but on December 13 I was rather motivated to speak my mind.  For many teachers that have been around for a few years, you may recall that this was the day the general membership was presented with the proposal regarding the resolution of the Unfunded Liability.  My involvement with the ATA stemmed from my indignation over how Local 38’s meeting at the Stampede Coral ‘went down’.  This could be a long and somewhat tiresome story about my passion for proper meeting procedures and rules of order (peppered with a protest rally held in front of the Local 38 office on a very chilly Saturday in the middle of December calling for the repeal of the vote cast on the unfunded liability resolution and the resignation of the president), but it really comes down to this – I realized on that day that, as a teacher, I cared a great deal for the professional well-being of my colleagues.  ALL of my colleagues. 

The nature of my reaction to the meeting where members of Local 38 voted on the Unfunded Liability agreement is immaterial – the end result, however, was (to me) quite important.  Once I realized that part of my core beliefs about teaching was looking out for the welfare of my colleagues, I needed an outlet to channel my energies.  I figured out that I had something to offer - that my colleagues needed me to stand up for them.  At my school, I was already a teacher-leader – lending a hand to new teachers, being involved in various committees and school events – but this involvement could only benefit the teachers at my own school.  The ATA offered me a broader opportunity to help more people.

My first foray into the world of Local 38 was attending a Council of School Representatives meeting.  While I was not one of the three School Representatives at my school, I attended anyway.  It’s actually the right of every teacher in Local 38 to attend CSR meetings.  I then volunteered for an ad-hoc committee, one that was created to help resolve my concerns about meeting procedures at General Meetings.  In short order, I decided that I had more to offer, that I could make more of a difference, the more involved I became.  I realized that the people who were already highly involved had the same mindset and attitude as I did.  I fully committed and joined the Local’s Executive Committee, the members of which are a group of equally-committed individuals that care as much about teachers, students, and the education system as I do.  (Incidentally, despite my initial calls for the president’s resignation, I’m rather pleased that she did, in fact, not resign, and was happy to work with me to resolve the issues I brought forward.)  I’ve now been a member of the Executive for the past four years.  Since then, I’ve felt strongly that my involvement has made a positive difference in the lives of my colleagues, and I feel more fulfilled as an educator knowing that I am not only making a difference in the lives of my students, but also in the lives of my peers.