An educator and Idaho Education Association staff member for three decades, Larry Caldwell advocated for public education and public school educators with unparalleled passion and devotion. Larry’s mission was to help IEA members and local education associations courageously stand up and speak out for fairness and justice for Idaho’s students and the teaching profession. The Larry Caldwell Member Advocacy Award was created to honor an IEA member who confronts extraordinary challenges to ensure their students, their school, their colleagues or their profession are treated fairly and justly. 

Gena Marker
West Ada Education Association
Nominated by Zachary Borman 

Gena Marker is well aware of how librarians find themselves at the center of efforts to weaken public education and the First Amendment. And she hasn’t flinched. 

As head librarian at Boise’s Centennial High School, Marker has stood as a bulwark against Idaho’s growing penchant for banning books and censoring materials some deem offensive, standing as an advocate for intellectual freedom and her LGBTQ+ students. In fact, her principles made her a target of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, an extremist anti-public education, anti-union policy mill in the state.  

“Through it all, Gena remained professional and steadfast in her values and the importance of providing relevant materials that represent our diverse and underserved population of students,” wrote Zachary Borman, president of the West Ada Education Association, who nominated Marker for IEA’s Larry Caldwell Member Advocacy Award.  

Marker, a librarian for 16 years, was recognized as the 2014 Librarian of the Year by the Idaho Library Association for her work as part of the School Library Action Planning Committee through the Idaho Commission for Libraries. 

“It’s easy to feel personal despair in the wake of book challenges,” Marker said in one media report in which she lamented being forced to pull two books LBGTQ+ students found helpful. “I was seen as a peddler of pornography by providing access to these books.” 

While she lost that fight, it didn’t dampen her ardor to continue the work.  

“Would I do this again in the name of intellectual freedom? You bet,” she said of her efforts to protect the titles. “Will I do this again in the near future? Most likely.” 

Marker’s long-time fight and consistent principles deserve recognition, Borman wrote. 

“Gena has been pushing for libraries with collections that show diversity, equity and inclusion for some time, and I feel it is high time we recognize and celebrate her for her efforts and bravery in the face of bigotry and extremist rage.” 

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