Interview with NEA President Rebecca Pringle
Becky Pringle is president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest labor union. Becky is a middle school science teacher with 31 years of classroom experience and has distinguished herself as a fierce social justice warrior and defender of educator rights.
NEA president Becky Pringle is a fierce social justice warrior, defender of educator rights, an unrelenting advocate for all students and communities of color, and a valued and respected voice in the education arena. A middle school science teacher with 31 years of classroom experience, Becky is singularly focused on using her intellect, passion, and purpose to unite the members of the largest labor union with the entire nation, and using that collective power to fulfill the promise of public education.
Although she often describes herself as “just a Black girl from North Philly,” Becky is a strategic, dedicated and tireless union leader who is—at her core—an educator who has been and continues to be motivated by what is best for students. Her passion for students and educators, combined with her first-hand classroom experience, equip her to lead the movement to reclaim public education as a common good. Becky was elected in 2020 as COVID-19 ravaged Black, Brown, and indigenous communities nationwide.
When the pandemic shuttered the nation’s schools, Becky helped to focus the nation’s attention on ways in which the crisis laid bare and exacerbated inequities that have for generations existed in schools, colleges, and communities nationwide—inequities that Becky herself encountered as a student, and has fought against for her entire career as an educator. Yet, Becky isn’t merely focused on shining the light on these inequities, she has a sturdy track record built upon years of work that has focused on transforming public education into a racial and socially just and equitable system designed to prepare every student to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world.
Before assuming NEA’s top post, Becky served as NEA vice president and before that as NEA secretary-treasurer. She directed NEA’s work to combat institutional racism, and spotlight systemic patterns of racism and educational injustice that impact students. Under Becky’s guidance, NEA works to widen access and opportunity by demanding changes to policies, programs, and practices. The Association’s goal is to ensure the systemic, fair treatment of people of all races so that equitable opportunities and outcomes are within reach for every student. This is why Becky is a staunch advocate for students who have disabilities, identify as LGBTQ+, are immigrants, or English Language Learners.
Becky co-chaired NEA’s Task Force on School Discipline and the School to Prison Pipeline. In that role, she guided the development of a school-to-prison pipeline policy statement that calls attention to and compels NEA’s 3 million members to address the inequitable and unfair policies and practices that push many students out of public schools and into the criminal justice system. Through this work, NEA is challenging zero-tolerance discipline policies, increased police presence in classrooms, and rising class sizes.
Becky has also led NEA’s work to transform the education professions and improve student learning. Most notably, she led the work group that produced the Association’s groundbreaking “Policy Statement on Teacher Evaluation and Accountability”—NEA’s first broad endorsement of the need to develop a compelling vision of a system of accountability that relies on quality, capacity, and trust, and embraces inspiration, innovation, shared responsibility, investment, authentic assessment, and continuous improvement. This led to the development of two seminal frameworks, “Transforming Teaching: Connecting Professional Responsibility With Student Learning” and the “Professional Growth Continuum for Education Support Professionals,” which focused on how we can improve educators’ professional practice to make an even greater impact on the health, safety, well-being, learning, and development of their students. Becky also led the Association’s development of a policy statement on Community Schools to guide NEA’s work to transform and create an educational system worthy of our students, their families, and our members.
Becky has a long and notable record of Association advocacy at the national, state, and local levels. She began her leadership journey as a local president, and then went on to serve on the Board of Directors for NEA and the Pennsylvania State Education Association. She also served two terms as a member of NEA’s Executive Committee where she distinguished herself as a thoughtful and passionate advocate for the nation’s public school educators and students. As NEA secretary-treasurer, Becky skillfully led the union through one of the worst economic periods in recent history. Her efforts enabled the Association to emerge on strong financial footing with more power to advance its mission.
The impact of Becky’s leadership is far reaching, and includes serving as finance chair of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards; treasurer of the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation; and on the Institute for Educational Leadership Task Force. She is a recipient of the National Peace Medal for Leader of Educational Excellence, a recipient of the Black Women’s Roundtable Education Innovation & Social Justice Leadership Award from the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; the Woman of Power Award from the National Action Network; and she was named Community Woman of the Year by the American Association of University Women. She is also a lifetime member of the NAACP. Becky served with distinction on President Barack Obama’s Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. Her work included addressing issues on teacher recruitment and retention, STEM access and opportunities, and college preparation and completion.
Those who know Becky best know that she is also a passionate Philadelphia Eagles fan, loves anything purple, and for two special someones holds the coveted title of “Best Nana B” in the world.