The 2010 NEA Representative Assembly in New Orleans is history. For the Idaho delegation, highlights included the presentation of a national human rights award to longtime Idaho educator and activist Tony Stewart.
Stewart – shown here second from left with IEA President Sherri Wood, Barbara Crow (who nominated Stewart), and IEA Vice President Marty Meyer – received the H. Councill Trenholm Award at the NEA's annual Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner held on the eve of Representative Assembly. The honor is given to an individual whose activities make a significant impact on education as a profession and promoting understanding among racial and ethnic groups. Stewart, a retired North Idaho College political science professor who grew up in North Carolina during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, was recognized for his successful decade-long effort to drive the Aryan Nations white supremacist group out of North Idaho.
When white supremacists calling themselves the Aryan Nations moved into Kootenai County to set up a compound, Stewart helped organize the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations to counter the propaganda and activities of the hate group. He enlisted support not only from his neighbors and colleagues but also from national organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, which in 2000 brought legal action against the Aryan Nations. Stewart served as jury consultant in the case, which resulted in a $6.3 million verdict against the white supremacist group.
Stewart also produced a 90-minute documentary entitled “Stand Up To Hate Groups by Saying Yes to Human Rights: The First Ten Years of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations” as an aid to other organizations facing similar social justice issues. Although Stewart has retired from North Idaho College, he continues to co-chair School District 271’s Fifth Grade Human Rights Week, along with Pamela Pratt, director of elementary education. Click here to watch a video made to introduce Stewart at the dinner and here to see his acceptance remarks.
Other highlights of the NEA's gathering in New Orleans included:
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel rallied the 9,000 educators and support personnel at RA to become advocates for their profession and take the lead in developing sound education policies. Story and video
Delegates heard a feisty address from No Child Left Behind architect Diane Ravitch, who has since raised questions about the growing national push for increased testing, privatization, and competition in schools. “Diane Ravitch did one of the bravest, most honest things a human being can do: she looked at the facts and admitted that she had been wrong,” said Van Roekel in awarding Ravitch the 2010 Friend of Education Award. “It is a testament both to her academic integrity as well as to her deep concern for America’s public school students that she changed her position as the facts warranted. She is indeed a true friend to all of America’s students.” Story and video
NEA 2010 Teacher of the Year Sarah Brown Wessling of Johnston, Iowa, shared with RA her vision of passionate educators who listen, interact, and work side by side with their students. Story and video.
ESP (Education Support Personnel) of the year Helen Cottongim was honored for her long service as a bus driver and for her work to establish the Kentucky Education Support Personnel Association (KESPA) in the mid-1980s. Story and video
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley was named Anerica's Greatest Education Governor, an honor presented each year to a governor who has made major, statewide efforts to improve public education. Story and video
Nearly 50 Idaho educators and ESPs attended the 2010 RA (top photo below), including a dozen who attended their first RA (bottom photo).