"Our student members really want to be involved. We want to be activists," said Chelsey Herrig, a recent graduate of Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minn. "We are problem-solvers, and we want to use our teacher brains to find solutions, in a collaborative way."
Herrig, an elementary education major with a special education minor, was elected Sunday by a majority of the NEA-Student delegates to the annual NEA Representative Assembly, this year in Denver. As the NEA-Student chair for the next two years, Herrig will trade Minnesota for Washington, D.C., where she will represent more than 60,000 future educators enrolled in NEA-affiliated student clubs and associations at colleges and universities across the country, and help lead NEA's Degrees Not Debt college affordability campaign.
She replaces outgoing chair David Tjaden. She is the first woman to serve as NEA-Student chair in nearly a decade.
Herrig, a former member of the NEA Board of Directors, promised to bridge gaps between student and certified teachers, and help grow the membership of the NEA-Student program so that members can someday be found in every state. She reflected after her election Sunday on the three pillars of the NEA-Student program: teacher quality, community outreach, and political activism.
The first is one that she is particularly passionate about: She knows the future educators of America have an awesome responsibility to educate the nation's children ---- but she also knows that membership in NEA-Student provides its members with "a step up," because of the many professional development resources it shares with student members.
Membership also provides future educators with critical information about educational policies that will affect them and their students, she said. And, even more important, it provides a platform for them to influence that policy in a student-centered way.
"Being educated on the issues that affect education is hugely important," said Herrig.
Also important is influencing the policies that address those issues: "I love to build relationships," said Herrig. "Rather than battling back and forth (with lawmakers and other policy-makers), I see so much value in working collaboratively, in joint efforts that work positively."