Lily Eskelsen García, a former Utah Teacher of the Year who started her 20-year career in education as a lunch lady before becoming an elementary teacher who worked with homeless children, was elected to head NEA. Eskelsen García previously served two three-year terms as NEA vice president and was named by President Obama to serve as a commissioner on the White House Commission on Education Excellence for Hispanics. An outspoken advocate for preserving and promoting public education for every student, she has been a vocal critic of high stakes testing and other policies that detract from student learning and exacerbate inequity in our education system.
“We must measure what matters and put students’ needs at the center of the system once again. We can no longer allow politicians who have never stepped into a classroom define what it means to teach and learn,” said Eskelsen García. “At a time when nearly 50 percent of public school children live in low-income families, our country must refocus its priorities on the needs of the whole child and bridge the gaps that have only grown over the last decade. We know what is at stake, and it is why we are educators. It is why we are fearless and why we will not be silent.”
After teaching only nine years, Eskelsen García was named her state’s top teacher. The daughter of an immigrant, she is one of the nation’s top Hispanic educators and used her leadership position to speak up on behalf of DREAMers seeking a path to U.S. citizenship and has been a vocal opponent of policies driven by the standardized testing mania. Her trajectory led to NEA, where she was elected an executive committee member in 1996 and secretary-treasurer in 2002; she was elected NEA vice president in 2008, and has been an outspoken advocate for the teaching profession, students, and learning. She also served as president of the Utah Education Association, an affiliate of NEA.
Delegates also elected Rebecca S. “Becky” Pringle, a middle school physical science teacher from Harrisburg, Pa., as NEA vice president. Pringle, now one of the highest-ranking African-American female leaders in the labor movement, has served since 2008 as NEA secretary-treasurer. She oversaw the fiscal integrity of the organization while advocating on professional issues important to educators and students as well as issues of equity in education, diversity in the classroom and human and civil rights. Pringle helped see the union through one of the worst economic periods in recent history ensuring the Association emerged this year on a strong financial footing and the path to growth.
“From the botched implementation of the Common Core State Standards to toxic tests that are hurting our students, there are many challenges facing students in public education,” said Pringle, a native of Philadelphia who attended both the University of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania State University. “As vice president of the nation’s largest union of educators, I will work to ensure that NEA lives up to its rich history and legacy of human and civil rights, which is the foundation for realizing a great public school for every student.”
Pringle has more than 30 years of classroom experience and has held leadership positions at the national, state and local levels within the association, including previously serving on NEA’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors as well as NEA’s state affiliate, the Pennsylvania State Education Association.
Rounding out the top three NEA leadership positions and making NEA the first major union to be led by three women of color, Princess Moss was elected secretary-treasurer. Her responsibilities will include overseeing the multimillion dollar budget and fiscal integrity of the organization.
“With an overemphasis on high-stakes standardized tests, we’ve seen the curriculum narrow and subjects like music, fine arts and P.E. have been stripped from our students’ public education. That’s not right,” said Moss, who taught elementary music education in Louisa County, Va. “NEA is leading the way to ensure all students receive a well-rounded education, and I’m honored to be at the forefront of that mission.”
Prior to her election as NEA’s secretary-treasurer, Moss previously served two three-year terms on NEA’s Executive Committee and has more than 21 years of classroom experience. She has held leadership positions at the national, state and local levels within the association, including two terms as president of the Virginia Education Association, an NEA Affiliate. She was appointed and re-appointed by Virginia Governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, respectively, to serve on the Commonwealth’s P-16 Education Council, which coordinates education reform from preschool through higher education.
In addition to electing three new officers, the NEA delegates also elected two members to the NEA Executive Committee, which consists of nine members—three executive officers and six members elected at large by the Representative Assembly. Earl Wiman, a Tennessee educator, was re-elected to a second three-year term and George Sheridan, a veteran educator from California, was newly elected to a three-year term. The committee is responsible for guiding NEA policy and acts for the NEA Board of Directors.
“NEA’s delegates have elected some extraordinary leaders who will continue to push for equity in education and carry on the organization’s commitment to student-centered union leadership and our commitment to social justice,” said outgoing NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, who leaves the term-limited post after six years. “NEA’s leadership will be the national voice in advocating for what our children need to succeed to be college- and career-ready.”
NEA’s annual convention is taking place June 26—July 6 in Denver. For more information, a full listing of scheduled events and to follow floor action at the 2014 NEA Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly, go to www.nea.org/annualmeeting.