‘Stand Up and Be Counted’

NEA officers and NEA-Retired President during the NEA-Retired Conference

Clockwise from upper left: NEA-Retired President Sarah Borgman, NEA President Becky Pringle, NEA Secretary-Treasurer Noel Candelaria, and NEA Vice President Princess Moss addressed delegates at NEA-Retired’s virtual Annual Meeting.

At the 2021 virtual Annual Meeting, NEA-Retired members were fired up and ready to take action.

“Believe the unbelievable and achieve the unachievable!” Those were the rousing words of NEA-Retired President Sarah Borgman at the 2021 NEA-Retired Annual Meeting, held on June 23-24. The event took place virtually for the second year in a row, due to the coronavirus pandemic, but as Borgman reflected, if the last year has taught us anything, it’s how to thrive in the face of adversity.

Now more than ever, she said, retired educators need to dig deep into their well of resilience. “We are being bombarded,” Borgman stated. “NEA itself, our democracy, our profession, public schools are all being attacked at every turn in the road. We see hatred, racial and social injustice, poverty, inequities, and challenges galore. …Today, we— NEA Retired—are ready to meet those challenges, to stand up and be counted.”

This call to action kicked off the event, attended by some 300 delegates representing the 324,315 members of NEA-Retired. The delegates heard from NEA leaders, held elections, discussed new proposals, awarded scholarships, celebrated the inspirational work of their members, and raised money for important causes.

NEA leaders share their vision

NEA President Becky Pringle, NEA Vice President Princess R. Moss, and Secretary-Treasurer Noel Candelaria addressed the delegates and took questions live through the virtual platform.

“I look to NEA-Retired as our greatest reminder of the tough battles that we have faced and won before,” Pringle said. “As the storm of COVID continues to subside, we have an opportunity to rebuild and replenish public education in a way that will create a system that will provide every student—every one—with the access and opportunity they deserve and need to live into their brilliance.”

Moss called on delegates to protect voting rights, which are under attack in nearly two dozen states across the country, and to focus on racial and social justice. “Together, we must challenge any system—not just education, but any system—that stands in the way of our pursuit of education justice. That is what this moment is about. That is what our work together is about.”

Candelaria spoke of his admiration for NEA-Retired and the importance of growing membership. “Organizing our members is the only way we can win, the only way we can move the needle on the issues that matter to most of us, the only way to have real political power,” he said. “And we will be looking to [NEA-Retired] to lead the way.”

Honoring more than 40 years of service

Walt Munsterman
Walt Munsterman

On the second day of the meeting, Borgman presented retired Minnesota teacher Walt Munsterman with the Distinguished Service Award—the organization’s highest honor. In a pre-recorded video, she lauded Munsterman’s 40-plus years of activism. In the 1970s, he worked as a chief bargaining negotiator in his local, and in the 1990s, he facilitated the merger of the Minnesota Federation of Teachers Retired and the Minnesota Education Association Retired (MEA Retired), which together became Education Minnesota Retired. Among Munsterman’s many union positions, he served as president of his local, vice president of MEA, and as the first president of Education Minnesota Retired. He is currently chair of the group’s Constitutions and Bylaws Committee.

Munsterman expressed his gratitude for the honor: “I would like to thank NEA … for [the] many hours of time they spent helping me become a better leader.”

Supporting worthy causes

NEA-Retired also presented five aspiring educators with Jack Kinnaman Memorial Scholarships in the amount of $2,500 each. Established in honor of a former NEA-Retired vice president, the award helps address college affordability—an issue that was close to the late leader’s heart.

The winners are (in alphabetical order): Madeline Burk, a senior at the University of Oregon; Will Crawford, a first-year student from the University of Tennessee; Tatiana Oney, a junior at Collin College, in Texas; Hannah St. Clair, a sophomore at the University of Oregon; and Kelsey Zetzel, a senior at Butler University, in Indiana.

Madeline Burk
Madeline Burk

Madeline Burk addressed the delegates virtually to express her thanks for the award. “I’ve known my desire to become an educator since before I entered kindergarten, but in recent years as, I’ve faced the challenges and reckonings with the status of education in our country, it has been the National Education Association that has held my hand and kept my heart passionate toward that goal,” said Burk, who is studying social science, Spanish, and education, and hopes to become a high school teacher.

Already a dedicated union organizer, Burk has helped start a campus chapter of Aspiring Educators and expand the statewide program in Oregon.

To contribute to the Kinnaman Memorial Scholarship Fund, go to donatekinnaman.com.

NEA-Retired also raised more than $18,000 through a virtual auction for the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education—a political action committee that supports pro-public education candidates. You can make a contribution here.

The votes are rolling in

Candidates made passionate speeches, vying for NEA-Retired leadership positions, including the role of secretary; two seats on the Executive Council; two seats on the Board of Directors; and one alternate seat for the Board of Directors. The ballots are being submitted by mail. Election results will be announced on July 19 or, if a runoff is required, on August 16. Check online for results.

Through electronic voting that took place live at the meeting, delegates elected six NEA-Retired members to the NEA Standing Committee on Resolutions for 2021 – 2022 (in alphabetical order): Ginny Bosse from Wisconsin, Ross Dill from Illinois, Sandra Hatley from North Carolina, Pat Jordan from Connecticut, Sid Kardon from Michigan, and Bobby J. Pierson from Alabama. Maureen Keeney from Delaware and Karen Solheim from Georgia will serve as alternates to the committee.

Moving forward with passion and dedication

It’s been a challenging year, and many speakers expressed hope for an in-person annual meeting next year. As President Pringle said to the delegates, “Storms are meant to replenish.” If COVID-19 was the storm, the clouds are now parting and NEA-Retired is moving forward with renewed commitment, energy, and hope for the future.