Marie Blistan, a high school special education resource center teacher in Washington Township public schools, is the president of the New Jersey Education Association. Blistan previously served as NJEA’s vice president (2013-17) and secretary-treasurer (2009-13). She was re-elected to a second two-year term as president effective Sept. 1, 2019, which she will serve until August 31, 2021.
At NJEA, Blistan is chair of numerous NJEA committees, including NJEA’s Political Action Committee (PAC), the Executive Committee, the Delegate Assembly, the County Presidents Council, the Staff Pension Committee, the Full Time Release Presidents’ Committee, and the Strengthening Local Associations Committee. Blistan is a member of the Leadership for Educational Excellence (LEE) group, which strives to provide the best education for all New Jersey children, as well as a member of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, whose mission is to provide and review research- based solutions to issues that influence curriculum and instruction.
As an officer, Blistan plays an active role in working with other special interest groups. She currently serves on the Work Environment Council Finance Committee, founded and chairs the New Jersey Special Education Stakeholders Coalition, is a trustee for the Brain Injury Association of New Jersey, as well as a member of the Women’s Political Caucus of NJ; she is a member of the NJ Hall of Fame Board of Commissioners, its Academy of Voters, and its nominee selection commit- tee. Blistan was a founding member of the New Jersey Labor Management Collaborative and helped lead a statewide effort to pass teacher leadership legislation. Additionally, Blistan currently sits on the governing board of the New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning, and, in 2019, she was selected to join the New Jersey Council on Juvenile Justice System Improvement’s Education Subcommittee, on which she continues to serve. Furthermore, Blistan was appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy to serve on his transition team for education.
No stranger to partnering with likeminded advocates, the effects of Blistan’s leadership resonate in classrooms throughout New Jersey. As one of three founding members the Healthy Schools Now Coalition, she helped spearhead efforts that led the Schools Development Authority to release funds that would go directly to public schools. With a passion for leader- ship, Blistan led statewide efforts to write and see the passage of legislation that created a new endorsement for public school employees holding standard teaching certificates, the Teacher Leader Endorsement.
While serving as secretary-treasurer, Blistan was the lead officer in establishing NJEA’s Hurricane Disaster Relief Fund for members and students. She was proud to be a part of the NJEA Hurricane Sandy Back-to-School Relief Program as well as the Sandy Ground Project, “Where Angels Play”—a joint venture with the New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association that resulted in 11 playgrounds being built throughout the state of New Jersey. These playgrounds were part of the 26 built across Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. During her role as secretary-treasurer, Blistan chaired the Budget Committee and sat on the Distinguished Student Teacher Awards Selection Panel. Additionally, she was a member of the Milken Award Selection committee and served as the officer liaison to the New Jersey Retirees’ Education Association (NJREA).
Additionally, in 2013, Blistan worked with other public-sector worker unions to help pass the historic constitutional amendment on New Jersey’s minimum wage, was recognized in both 2014 and 2016 by the NAACP and was the 2015 recipient of the NJ State Democratic Committee’s Jefferson Jackson Award. Additionally, Blistan has been a lifelong member of the Irvington Chapter of the NAACP.
Blistan served as president of the Gloucester County Education Association (2005-09) and was active in NJEA since early in her career. She has held co-chair positions on the Gloucester County Government Relations committee as well as the Gloucester County Legislative Action Team (2008). She sat on the Gloucester County Professional Development Board (1998-2004) and was a member of the N.J. Professional Teaching Standards Board (2008-11).
In 2007, Blistan successfully spearheaded opposition to an involuntary pilot program that would have consolidated all of Gloucester County’s school districts.
In addition to her county duties, Blistan has held leader- ship positions in two local associations. She was executive vice president of the Washington Township Education Association (2003-05) and the president of the Somerdale Education Association (1984-86) in Camden County. Blistan also served as the WTEA vice president of secondary (2001-03) and vice president of special services and secretaries (2000-01). She chaired numerous committees in both associations and was the 1987 Somerdale and Camden County Teacher of the Year. She has also been honored with a Friend of Gloucester County Education award in 2011 and a special recognition award from the Bridgeton chapter of the NAACP in 2013.
Blistan co-founded and was the chair of the Gloucester County Education Commission (2007-09), where she created a positive forum for NJEA members to meet with legislators on selected topics that affect both members and public education. Her efforts on this project served as a model for other counties to successfully launch their own county education commissions.
Blistan chaired the NJEA Distinguished Service Award Committee (2007-09) and has also served on the NJEA Government Relations (2007-09), Instruction (2001-05), Exceptional Children (2005-07), and Urban Education (2007-09) committees. She was an NJEA consultant in the UniServ (2007-09) and Professional Development and Instructional Issues divisions (2002-09).
As a teacher, Blistan was selected to be on the N.J. Hall of Fame Advisory Commission in 2008 for her classroom work in supporting the creation of the N.J. Hall of Fame. In 2009, she was appointed to be an official member of the NJ Hall of Fame Board of Commissioners and currently is the chair of their Education Committee. Blistan also served on the NJEA Emergency School Response Task Force, a committee created to work with the NJ Department of Homeland Security to design emergency response plans in state public schools. She was a member of the Partnership for Collaboration and Professional Learning and served on the Evaluation Pilot Advisory Committee (EPAC) where she assisted the Department of Education in making recommendations to the commissioner of education on effective practices for an evaluation system.
In 2003, Blistan was inducted into Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, a worldwide professional educator’s organization.
A graduate of Camden County College and Glassboro State College (now Rowan University), Blistan continued her graduate studies and earned a master’s degree in reading. Blistan holds certificates as a teacher of the handicapped, reading, secondary English, and as a reading specialist. She has also earned a supervisor of instruction certificate from Rowan University.
Blistan’s continued focus as NJEA president is for NJEA and all its members—certificated, support professionals, retired, and student members— to continue to take the lead on the discussion of New Jersey’s educational progress in order to pro- vide the best experience possible for all public school children.
Unafraid to enter the political arena to fight on behalf of educators and children alike, Blistan was ranked 21st out of 100 of the state’s most influential leaders on 2018 Insider’s NJ’s “Power 100 List” and 13th out of 100 on the New Jersey Globe’s 2018 Power List. Blistan was further honored by Kidsbridge with its 2018 Humanitarian Award for her work as teacher of students with special needs in Washington Township (Gloucester Co.) and her dedication to the well-being of children and all New Jersey families. In 2019, Blistan was awarded the Evangelina Menendez Trailblazer Award, which recognizes women from the state of New Jersey who promote equal rights for all and champion the rights of women, families, and children, by U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez.
As her second term as NJEA President began, Gov. Murphy appointed Blistan to the NJ Future of Work Task Force. As member of the Task Force, Blistan experiences as an educator help influence the creation of an online catalog of policies and proposals relating to the future of work in New Jersey. As a result of her powerful advocacy for public schools, www.NJBiz. com named Marie Blistan that second most powerful education advocate in New Jersey in September of 2019.
In November of 2019, the Work Environment Council (WEC) recognized Blistan for her leadership in ensuring safe and healthy working and learning environments for educators and students. Blistan, along with NJEA Vice President Sean M. Spiller and Secretary-Treasurer Steve Beatty, was further honored by the American Labor Museum with the Sol Stetin Award at the museum’s 37th Annual Sol Stetin Awards Gala. All NJEA officers were recognized for their outstanding contributions in their personal lives and professional careers to improve the lives of working people in the United States. In December of 2019, Blistan’s leadership earned the praise of Sen. Loretta Weinberg, who named Blistan to her annual “The Powerful Women of New Jersey” list.
In February 2020, Blistan was ranked sixteenth on the Power 100 List by www.NJBiz.com. Blistan’s leadership continued through the COVID-19 pandemic, and in March of 2020, she was named the most influential educator on Higher Education in 2020 by ROI-NJ.
Blistan successfully led the 200,000-member NJEA in one of the most historic fights in its history, the fight for legislative relief from Chapter 78 and Job Justice for Educational Support Professionals (ESPs). On July 1, 2020, Gov. Murphy signed the law replacing Chapter 78 with Chapter 44, saving educators and future educators alike thousands of dollars in health insurance premiums while ensuring they maintained the same level of benefits. On Aug. 14, 2020, Gov. Murphy signed the first of two Job Justice bills; he signed the second on September 11, 2020. Together the bills provide due process for ESPs and long-overdue protections from privatization and had been the primary focus of Blistan’s first three years as president of NJEA. As a result of these historic accomplishments, as well as her measured leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, Blistan was named New Jersey’s sixth most powerful person on NJ Biz’s Education Power 50 list in September of 2020. Like the two years prior, Blistan was listed seventh on InsiderNJ’s “Power 100” publication, where she earned recognition for her deft political movement amid the life-changing pandemic. In December of 2020, Blistan was ranked 11th on the 2020 New Jersey Globe Power List. In that same month, Sen. Loretta Weinberg named Blistan to her annual “The Powerful Women of New Jersey” list, a distinction which Blistan earned for the second consecutive year. Two months later, in February of 2021, Blistan’s leadership and political influence were acknowledged again when she was ranked 8th on ROI-NJ’s 2021 Influencer Power List. During that same month, she was also featured on the NJ Biz’s 2021 Power 100 list, an honor which she earned for three consecutive years. In March of 2021, Blistan was ranked 6th on ROI-NJ’s ROI Influencers: Women in Business power list, which she earned for her unwavering commitment to public schools throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Blistan and her husband, Bob, a retired high school special education teacher in Washington Township, live in Harrisonville. She has two sons, a daughter, and six grandchildren.