Van Roekel steered NEA through one of the most tumultuous times in public education history, as right wing politicians and so-called education reformers sought to defund education, strip educators of their collective bargaining rights, and privatize schools to turn a profit.
Now, as Van Roekel hands the reins to incoming president Lily Eskelsen Garcia, he leaves behind a legacy of dedication and service to NEA members and public education students. Not only did he tirelessly work to reverse the influence of corporate reformers, elevate the teaching profession, and bring an end to an era of toxic testing, he has moved the issue of equity and the challenges of poverty into the center of the national conversation about public education so that each and every student has access to a great public school.
The 3 million members of the National Education Association thank Dennis Van Roekel for his service and passion for students and educators. As he leaves Denver at the close of his last RA, friends and colleagues – from former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner to renowned education advocate Linda Darling-Hammond – say farewell and wish him well upon his retirement from the National Education Association, but not from the work of serving our public school students.
As Justice O’Conner said, someone with Van Roekel’s passion never really stops serving, and she wishes him the best as he continues to “go forward with service and help for the teachers of this country.”
VIDEO: Education Notables Thank Dennis Van Roekel for His Service
President American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
Former U.S. Secretary of Education
Sandra Day O’Connor
Former U.S. Supreme Justice
Activist and Radio Personality
Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education
Executive Director Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance
Former U.S. Secretary Health and Human Services
Interim President NAACP
U.S. Secretary of Labor