California Educator

August 2014

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Perspectives Meet the California Teacher of the Year team TIMOTHY SMITH, Elk Grove Education Association, is California's nominee for National Teacher of the Year. He's an algebra and AP Statistics teacher at Florin High School. The other 2014 California Teachers of the Year are JESSICA PACK, middle school language arts, social studies and technology teacher, Palm Springs Teachers Association; ANGELO "ANG" BRACCO, grades 6-8 special educator, Vallejo Education Association; MICHAEL HAYDEN, high school choral and music appreciation teacher, Manhattan Beach Unified Teachers Association; and LINDA HORIST, second- grade teacher, Orange Unified Education Association. We sat down with them recently and asked them to discuss their experiences as CTA members. Member opinions TIMOTHY SMITH: CTA, along with our local associations, means when we go home we can think about improving lesson plans. Without CTA we'd spend a lot more time worrying about retirement and medical benefits. If those are on our mind all the time, how effective would we be as a teacher? The union is our security blanket. Sure, we need to be activists — and when change happens, we need to be part of the change, to make things happen. But as an organization, CTA and our local chapters allow us to teach, to be creative in our classroom, to step outside the box and try new things in class. That protection helps creativity, so we're not stifled. ANGELO BRACCO: I appreciate going to my union rep to make change. Groups of teachers get together to make change, whether it be a bell schedule or anything like that. And if you have an administrator who's causing you grief, you have somebody to go to who'll listen, and help solve the issue. I count on my union to be my spokesperson, to represent me. My voice. LINDA HORIST: I don't think teachers are necessarily treated as professionals. Gaining respect as a profession is huge, in addition to support, legal assistance, having a voice as a professional. We need to change the way the community looks at us, and CTA is doing that. We are the union, we are your community teachers, and we are your children's teachers. We should be viewed like your doctor. That's not always the case. MICHAEL HAYDEN: I want to run with that because in the performance arts, when you're training as an under- graduate, you choose a track — performance or teaching. In my generation of musicians, if you chose the teaching track, you were viewed as a second-class citizen, not as well as performance. I have honed my skills as a teacher. Our union professionalizes us — so we are treated as pro- fessionally as possible, especially in music. So many arts programs were cut, so my community, we stepped forward and said no. It's too important to student learning. We value the arts, we value you as a teacher. This idea of our union standing by us — that is one of the most valuable things arts teachers can see. JESSICA PACK: I think the connected educator is the empowered educator. For me, my personal learning 26

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