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 2019 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.

Here are the finalists for the 2019 Social Justice Activist of the Year Award. Read their inspiring biographies below.

Voting ends midnight June 21st!

Kimberly Eckert, Louisiana

Kimberly Eckert, the 2018 Louisiana Teacher of the Year, has a unique tradition with her students: She writes them personal letters to ease some of their anxieties and let them know how much they mean to her.

“It’s treating them with dignity. It’s treating them with respect,” says Eckert. “Telling them that, ‘You matter. You might not have seen it yet. But I saw it. I saw it the second I locked eyes with you. You mattered before I ever met you.’ ”

Eckert teaches English at Brusly High School in the West Baton Rouge Parish School District in Brusly, Louisiana. She and her sisters were among the first in her family to graduate from high school. After graduating from college, she spent time doing social work before bringing those skills into the classroom.

As Louisiana Teacher of the Year, Eckert prioritized recruiting new educators, scaling up her platform for teacher recruitment, and helping to diversify the teaching pipeline — attracting and training teachers for culturally responsive practices. She also served as the spokesperson for the state’s “Be a Teacher LA” campaign and continued her work as a Louisiana Public Interest Fellow by piloting the national “Educators Rising” program in the state. Through that program, she emphasized the recruitment of high school students with an interest in social justice and supported 17 districts as they implemented their own pilots.

We caught up with Kimberly to get her thoughts on educator activism, the challenges facing public education today, and her advice for new educator activists…

Read the full interview

Winter Marshall-Allen, Alaska

Winter Marshall-Allen is passionate about Native and ethnic student needs, cultural preservation, and the inclusion of students with special education needs in public school settings. Over the past decade, she has worked actively with her local unions in Oklahoma and Alaska to amplify these issues and address student needs. She is also from a DREAMer family.

Marshall-Allen began her education career in 2009 at Muskogee High School in Oklahoma, where she worked for six years as a teacher of students with Specific Learning Disabilities and/or Behavior Disorders. She currently works in Homer, Alaska, as the Program Director for Intensive Needs Inclusion Community-Based Instruction.

In her four years with NEA-AK, Marshall-Allen says she has prioritized finding opportunities to use her voice and platform as an educator to reach parents, educators and community members. As a local area representative, she is co-responsible for organizing RedForEd rallies and disseminating information in Alaska’s southern peninsula.
She also advocates for student needs with state and federal elected officials. She has traveled to Washington, D.C., the past two years to discuss Indian education, DACA, and special education rights and funding with Alaska’s senators.

We caught up with Winter to get her thoughts on educator activism, the challenges facing public education today, and her advice for new educator activists…

Read the full interview

Danica Moore, Kansas

When Danica Moore made a big career transition in 2013 from classroom teaching to her current role as an equity facilitator, she told her students she was doing so because they weren’t the ones who needed the most education for equity and social justice — it was her fellow educators.

“I told my students that I was going to support them by spreading all they had taught me to more teachers who could then impact more students,” she says. “I haven’t looked back since that transition.”

Moore is now a teacher on special assignment, working as an equity facilitator in Lawrence Public Schools in Kansas, where she is focused on embedding equity into the fabric of the school district. In this role, she introduces newly hired staff to equity programs and initiatives, guides 20 equity teams across the district, and regularly meets with staff, families, students and community members.

She began her career in Lawrence Public Schools in 2007 as a reading and math resource teacher for intervention students and English language learners. In addition to her current equity facilitator position, she works as an adjunct professor for the University of Kansas, teaching cultural diversity, equity, and inclusion in K-12 schools.

We caught up with Danica to get her thoughts on educator activism, the role of students in movement-building, and her advice for new educator activists…

Read the full interview

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