From honoring their colleagues to raising money for needy children across Idaho, more than 550 Idaho educators spent a busy two days in Boise at the Idaho Education Association’s 119th Delegate Assembly.
At the Awards Luncheon on Friday, April 15, Dr. Geoffrey Thomas, superintendent of the Madison School District based in Rexburg, Idaho, won the IEA’s Friend of Education Award. Thomas was recognized for his commitment to excellence, his open-door policy, his frequent classroom visits, his passion for education, and his willingness to oppose public policy that will harm children and schools.
Thomas returned the favor by saying, “I appreciate the Idaho Education Association and the consistency with which you speak out for public education in this state.” He added that he has found the recent wave of teacher-bashing by state officials “disturbing and nonsensical … a good general does not fire on his own troops.”
Thomas, a former classroom teacher, added that the teacher-student relationship is the most important factor in education, and that most educators do their utmost to make those relationships positive. While some people see glasses as half-empty and others as half-full, “others get up and fill the glass. Teachers fill the glasses.”
Noting that “all benefits that have happened to me are the blessings of the good Lord and of public education,” Thomas cited the critical role that unions play in making schools a good place for both students and teachers to spend their days. “It’s been said that ‘if you can read, thank a teacher,’” he said. “If you like the weekend, the eight-hour day, and a 30-minute duty free lunch, thank a union.”
Other people honored at the luncheon included:
Timothy Sandford – Marsha Nakamura Award for Teaching Excellence (Sandford is also Idaho’s nominee for the NEA Foundation Awards for Teaching Excellence)
Gregory Taylor – Shane Anderson Outstanding Member Award
Kristi Milan – Membership Recruiter Award
Stephanie Hopkins – Edythe Crowe Education Support Professional Award
Chris Hiroto – Sam Cikaitoga Minority Service Award
Sara Pence – Teacher Trainee Award
Kamiah Education Association Executive Committee – Larry Caldwell Member Advocacy Award
Throughout the weekend, delegates heard from:
National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel and state lawmakers who opposed state Superintendent Tom Luna’s radical overhaul of K-12 education;
IEA President Sherri Wood, who gave a farewell speech at this, her sixth and final Delegate Assembly before retiring this summer;
and Stefani Cook, the 2011 Idaho Teacher of the Year, who asked her colleagues to be strong advocates for children and the education profession.
Delegates voted Friday afternoon to back the referendum campaigns to overturn the harmful Luna laws, and many teachers fanned out across Boise that evening to begin collecting signatures.
But in the spirit of “filling the glasses,” delegates also took time to raise more than $20,000 for the IEA Children’s Fund, which helps educators meet student emergency needs ranging from eyeglasses to dental work to shoes and coats. The money came via a silent auction, memorial contributions, and a “15 for $15” campaign in which members sought donations of at least $15 from at least 15 people to win a chance at having Sherri Wood substitute for them for a day. (Kari Overall, a history teacher at South Junior High School, won the contest.)
Delegates also took advantage of a Red Cross bloodmobile parked just outside the Boise Centre convention hall, donating 28 pints of blood to help other people in need across Idaho.
The IEA will mark its 120th anniversary at the 2012 Delegate Assembly, which is set for April 20-21 next spring in Boise.