2016 Social Justice Activist of the Year Finalists

Education Justice Starts Here!


Every day educators take extraordinary action to show leadership on social and racial justice issues in and out of the classroom.

Members of the National Education Association have a long and proud history of social justice activism. Education advocacy and social justice advocacy go hand in hand, as an increasingly diverse kaleidoscope of students and educators must feel welcome in our public schools.

The 2017 Social Justice Activist of the Year award will be presented to the exceptional effort that demonstrates the ability to lead, organize and engage educators, parents, and the community to advocate on social justice issues that impact the lives of students, fellow educators and the communities they serve.

This was an unprecedented year in terms of NEA educator social justice activism! From a field of impressive nominations we present to you the finalists for the 2017 Social Justice Activist of the Year Award. Read their inspiring biographies below:

Voting is open to educators, public education allies and partners.

Voting ends midnight, May 30th

Chelsie Acosta, Utah

Chelsie is a secondary school teacher in Salt Lake City, Utah who has made social justice advocacy a central part of her life’s work. From standing with LGBTQ colleagues, to speaking up for immigrant students at raucous Congressional town hall meetings, to quietly moving colleagues to acknowledge their biases, Chelsie is outspoken and highly engaged.

Read Chelsie’s complete profile here

Kalebra Jacobs-Reed, Florida

Kalebra is a high school teacher on Broward County, Florida. She bases her activism in a belief in America’s representative democracy and the knowledge that the work to ensure all voices are heard and included. By co-founding, South Florida Activism, she engages with fellow union members and other community activists to champion human, civil and environmental justice at the local, state and national level.

Read Kalebra’s complete profile here

Scott Launer, Florida

Scott is an associate instructor in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric at the University of Central Florida and President of the Central Florida Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida. He has lead social and racial justice initiatives with community organizations to create infrastructure and supports for diverse candidates to run for office, to empower working families in Florida, and to change policies around drug offenses that disproportionately impact communities of color.

Read Scott’s complete profile here

Jessyca Mathews, Michigan

Jessyca is a high school teacher in Flint, Michigan. She has written poetry and a play to bring community and national attention to the Flint water crisis. Jessyca has also empowered her students to use creative expression to channel their responses to the crisis and find the power of their collective voices. This work also led her to connect her students with students in Lansing, Michigan in advocating for clean water.

Read Jessyca’s complete profile here

Luke Michener & Terry Jess, Washington

Luke (left) and Terry (right) are both high school teachers in Bellevue, Washington who are advocating for youth and educator voices to be deeply engaged in achieving racial and social justice. They co-founded a student group where they support students leading on advocacy and community education on issues like: immigration , race in policing, micro aggressions and street harassment, and anthem protests. They also collaborated in the formation of Educators for Justice, which works with teachers and education support professionals to create safe and supportive educational experiences for all students.

Read Luke and Terry’s complete profile here.

Robt Seda-Schreiber, New Jersey

Robt is an art teacher in East Windsor, New Jersey. He is a dedicated advocate for a myriad of social justice issues, but his impact has been felt most personally and structurally through his founding of his school’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA). While the GSA and Robt’s advocacy has literally saved student’s lives, he has tirelessly worked to assist other educators around New Jersey to form GSA’s and to provide safe and supportive environments for LGBTQI youth. Robt also works with students on a mural program to create thought provoking works for the greater community.

Read Robt’s complete profile here.

Erika Strauss-Chavarria, Maryland

Erika is a high school teacher in Howard County, Maryland. She is a leader on working to end the school to prison pipeline by increasing education and awareness in the community, employing restorative practices and by advocating for policy changes. Erika also advocates for immigrant youth and is working to hold Know Your Rights trainings for undocumented students and their families.

Read Erika’s complete profile here.

Voting is now closed

Questions? Email us at NEAedjustice [at] nea.org

NEA EdJustice engages and mobilizes activists in the fight for racial, social and economic justice in public education. Readers will find timely coverage of social justice issues in education and ways they can advocate for our students, our schools, and our communities. You will receive emails from Education Justice on this and other important campaigns. You can unsubscribe at any time.
The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.
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