Tama Meyer, Jan Studer, Bette Price, and Mary Lee Ruch were forces to be reckoned with as professional educators and IEA members, so it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that they have carried their enthusiasm and energy into retirement. These four women, along with more than 30 other members, comprise the North Idaho Education Association Retired Chapter (NIEARC), one of only two authorized chapters of retired members operating under the IEA umbrella.
“We were trained to organize under the auspices of the IEA and NEA, and learned a great deal from their programs,” says Studer. “Once retired, we felt compelled to pay it forward through the power of organization and team effort.”
The group put several goals in writing when they embarked on this endeavor in 2014, including
- Providing opportunities for retired members to continue their involvement in the IEA
- Addressing issues such as PERSI policies, Social Security, and retirement benefits.
- Encouraging support for public education, pro-education political candidates, and human and civil rights initiatives.
- Assisting North Idaho local associations in bargaining and in supporting local bonds and levies
- Organizing social events and volunteer opportunities
NIEARC completed the process of approval to become an active local in Region 1 from the IEA Board of Directors in 2017. “We know how to get things done,” is how Studer described her compatriots. And it has been full speed ahead for the group ever since.
One of NIEARC’s most popular activities has been engAGE Artfully, for which they received grants from the IEA Retired Council for the last four years. Meyer is a retired art teacher, so she takes the lead as the group tackles a variety of art mediums. They meet four to five times a year at different locations in the Coeur d’Alene area, including the IEA’s new North Idaho office and a local fire station. NIEARC then makes greeting cards featuring the completed works and sells the completed works at the IEA Delegate Assembly and other events, with the proceeds split between their own operational fund and the IEA Children’s Fund.
NIEARC also conducts other fundraising initiatives such as cookbooks, raffles, and bake sales. Many of the activities were initiated to support local businesses during COVID (again, with half the proceeds going to the IEA Children’s Fund). They have also organized group outings to places like the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, the Sunshine Mine Memorial, and wreath-making at local nurseries. After the school shooting in nearby Freeman, WA, NIEARC banded together and brought both lunch and moral support to the devastated school community. Continuing their support of unions, they did fundraisers to support the North Idaho Hecla miners and their families during their two-year-long strike.
True to their stated objectives, they remain active in the political sphere, participating in candidate forums and addressing postcards in support of pro-education candidates in local school board races. Several members have worked with Reclaim Idaho on ballot initiatives for Medicaid expansion to bring healthcare coverage to Idahoans living in poverty, and to compel the Idaho legislature to provide new funding for public schools.
One of NIEARC’s most treasured accomplishments is the establishment of the Monica Beaudoin Award. Monica, who passed away in 2020, was a former IEA President, a legislator who fought for quality public education, and a founding NIEARC member. NIEARC wrote the guidelines for the award, which has been approved by the IEA Board and will recognize the IEA’s most outstanding retired member each year. The inaugural Monica Beaudoin Award will be handed out at the 2022 IEA Delegate Assembly.
“The ongoing work of NIEARC members is inspirational,” says Region 1 Director Denise Cobden. “It has been exciting to see their enthusiasm rub off on other members, both retired and active.”
If you are a retired member from North Idaho and are interested in joining this feisty, good-natured group of former educators, contact Katye Harris in the IEA’s North Idaho office at email@example.com.
Other Retired Chapters, Current and Future
At present, there is only one other officially sanctioned retired chapter in Idaho. SWEA-R (Southwest Education Association-Retired) has about 70 members. The IEA’s Retired Council has efforts underway to investigate the feasibility of retired chapters in Regions 4, 5, and 6. The Retired Council is co-chaired by the two IEA Retired Board Members, Dick Chilcote, and Mary Lee Ruch. If you are a retired IEA member looking to get more involved with the Association, contact Dick at firstname.lastname@example.org.