While becoming IEA Vice President in the midst of the turmoil and strife of a global pandemic may not have been exactly how she would have drawn it up, taking on a major leadership role in her state association has been almost a foregone conclusion for Vallivue music teacher and VEA member Erin Paradis. The Idaho native is following the example set by her mother, Joanne Holtz, who was a career educator and longtime leader in the IEA and Vallivue Education Association.
“She set such a great example for me,” says Erin. “Some of my earliest memories are of attending union meetings with her. And the biggest impact she had was watching how dedicated she was to her students. She was always grading papers, attending professional development training , and coming up with new and engaging lesson ideas.”
Paradis was elected IEA Vice President this summer after serving as a member of the Board of Directors representing Region 8 for several years.
“I feel that I have a vision and passion to share with members that can help guide us toward becoming an organization that really stands up and works together to improve public education.”
She first became involved in her local association (Vallivue EA) in 2015 when she was elected as a local delegate to the IEA Delegate Assembly, which lit an unquenchable fire.
Among her top priorities—amplifying educator voices and building strength and diversity in IEA membership. “One of the most important parts of a union is that it’s not just individual voices and when the whole speaks up together it really makes a difference,” she says. “By coming together in a broader coalition our message for change will grow in volume and that united front will be a force to be reckoned with.”
And Paradis sees multiple meanings when talking about diversity of membership. “Having grade level teachers, music and other specialists, counselors, psychologists, nurses, paraprofessionals, transportation and custodial staff mean we can develop a clear picture of what we need to create the schools our students deserve,” she notes. She also recognizes the need for greater demographic diversity in the workforce and within education associations. “Our union should reflect the diverse populations we serve so students are able to see themselves in the adults that educate and encourage them.”
The pandemic has created huge challenges for educators, but there is a silver lining in the form of awareness and opportunity. “The biggest COVID-19 challenge has been constant change and uncertainty, which is incredibly stressful,” Paradis says. “In the bigger picture, the pandemic has highlighted what we already knew were the deficiencies in public education. The passion educators have shown to make systemic changes has given me fire and energy to double down on a shared vision of what is best for Idaho children.”
Paradis is extremely proud of the advocacy work done by the IEA and local associations around the state in trying to protect the health of students and staff as the pandemic has raged. “We know schools are the best place for students but only when districts create safe environments, and it’s those of us doing the work every day who know what it takes to create safe spaces,” she says. “Our local associations have been the checks and balances and have fought hard for the safe learning environments we need.”
The combination of a job she loves teaching music (since 2012-13) at Vallivue’s Desert Springs Elementary School and the enthusiasm she brings to her new role as IEA Vice President keeps Erin very busy, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. And to add another layer to keeping education and Association work in the family, her husband, Jeff, is also a music teacher and IEA member.