The Idaho Education Association is very fortunate to have a pair of veteran administrators working with the organization on an interim basis. Paul Hambleton is serving as the IEA Interim Executive Director and Andrés Becerra is the IEA Interim Associate Executive Director.
Hambleton comes to Idaho by way of Wisconsin and Maine. He spent 20 years as a teacher in Wisconsin, then was so inspired by the advocacy work of the WEAC that he became a UniServ Director (known in Idaho as a Region Director). That position certainly came with its trials and tribulations. “In 2010 Governor Scott Walker and Act 10 came along, and I was in the middle of all that, helping organize members during the uprising,” Hambleton says. Wisconsin was one of the first states to successfully target unions and collective bargaining, shattering the stability of the Association, at least temporarily. “We had to become organizers very quickly and it was a really difficult couple of years,” he notes.
In 2012 Hambleton accepted an offer to become the Deputy Executive Director of the Maine Education Association, where he utilized his bargaining and organizing background to help the MEA grow. He retired from that position in 2015 and went to work as the Chief Academic Officer for then Governor Paul LePage. Paul and his wife, Julie, recently moved back to Hudson, WI, about 25 miles from the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
When the opportunity arose with the Idaho Education Association, Hambleton wanted to make sure the fit was a good one, so he visited Idaho to scope things out. He came away impressed, invigorated, and eager to bring his expertise to bear on behalf of the IEA. “I was thrilled with the amount of potential of the IEA,” he says. “I really believe that bringing fresh eyes to the situation will be helpful for everyone.”
Hambleton will be supporting IEA staff, leadership, and members during his tenure as Interim Executive Director, and he is impressed with what he has seen of the organization thus far. “It’s very clear the IEA is respected in the education community in Idaho,” he says. “The work done in building relationships is paying dividends on many fronts.” Areas of emphasis for Hambleton will be education policy, leadership development, and overseeing the IEA staff.
Becerra, who started as Interim Associate Executive Director in October, also brings a wealth of experience to the IEA. Most recently, he worked as Director of Organizing for the Ohio Education Association, which boasted a membership of more than 120,000. He has also held positions with several other NEA state affiliates, including the Oregon Education Association, the Texas State Teachers Association, the NEA of New Mexico, and the Maryland State Teachers Association.
His previous experience featured significant work on political campaigns, a stint as the Assistant to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction in Arizona, an organizer and business agent for Unite HERE in Washington, D.C. “I had to make a transition from hard unionism to organizing around education issues like collective bargaining and professional development,” he says. “I look at all of this work through an organizing lens.”
Becerra is also very much in tune with social justice issues. His uncle was the Chilean ambassador to the United States and his father was a political attaché. Andres moved from Chile to the U.S. at the age of three, growing up in Washington, D.C. and New York City. “I experienced name-calling and discrimination first-hand at a young age,” he says. “The tough lessons learned from those experiences have sensitized me to the many forms of social injustice I have seen during my career.”
Being bilingual has helped Becerra advocate for those who face language and financial barriers and has led to his knack for increasing membership. “I was hired in New Mexico as a bilingual UniServe Director and I did many membership presentations in Spanish,” he says. “Then we had such success with a joint program between Las Cruces and El Paso (just across the state line in Texas) that the Texas State Teachers Association recruited me for my first management position.” Becerra even met his wife, Jennifer, at the time a teacher in New Mexico, at a grievance hearing. Jennifer now teaches fifth grade in Columbus, Ohio.
Becerra looks to marshal his experience and skill on behalf of the IEA during his time with the Association. “I get great pleasure from watching associations grow their collective power,” he says. “I like to show people how they can help themselves and to help members understand that they are the backbone of their Association.”