Three words describe Carol Stubbs’ experience at the recent NEA National Leadership Summit: “Energetic, exciting, and inspiring,” said the school custodian from Fayetteville, N.C., who serves as her local association president. “It makes me want to go home and do even more!”

More than 2,000 educators, ranging from future teachers to college professors, from school counselors to custodians, attended the three-day summit in Chicago from March 16-19. “You’re not here so we can make a leader out of you,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García told the crowd. “There’s not anybody in this room who has not already demonstrated leadership.”

Summit attendees came to work on further developing the essential skills of union leaders, including advocacy, communication, and organizing skills. (Check out the six core competencies of NEA leadership development.) “What I’m learning is that my voice does matter, and I need to use it. I can’t sit back,” said California school counselor Erika Zamora. “Also, there is power in us doing this work together!”

The annual summit is the largest annual meeting of NEA educators, apart from the legislative NEA Representative Assembly, and it is an opportunity to “learn and to grow and to strengthen, and to gain a renewed sense of purpose and passion and perspective on how to lead more powerful and relevant associations,” NEA Vice President Becky Pringle told attendees. Powerful unions of educators are a necessity these days for public-school students to get what they need to succeed, she said…

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