By Anthony Elia, Graduate Student, The College of New Jersey

Choosing to become a part of the NJEA Preservice is one of the best decisions I ever made. It has put me on a path where I have taken on numerous roles, been part of phenomenal discussions and have had the opportunity to meet some incredible educators nationwide. When I compare who I am today to who I was in the beginning of my freshmen year, I see a huge difference. NJEA Preservice is an opportunity that I hope all preservice teachers grab at the start of their college careers.

I decided to start small and serve as a treasurer for my college chapter. I also became an NJEA Preservice ambassador on my campus. Later, I became interested in moving to the state level and serving on the executive board and as an officer. These experiences have served me well in preparing to become a teacher. They helped me improve my organizing skills, network with other preservice teachers in New Jersey and hone leadership qualities.

For NJEA Preservice members interested in getting more involved, the best place to start is as an ambassador for NJEA Preservice at your college. An ambassador represents NJEA Preservice to all future educators on campuses throughout New Jersey.

When you serve on the state level, you also may have the opportunity to serve NJEA committees as a representative for preservice members. I was part of the NJEA Membership Committee last year. The opportunity to serve with experienced active NJEA members on this committee taught me some valuable strategies on how to increase membership. This year I have the privilege to serve on two NJEA committees: Exceptional Children and Affiliation.

Aspiring Educators, a preservice program of the National Education Association, holds an annual Summer Leadership Conference. Scholarships are available to help members attend. Along with workshops and meetings, there are opportunities to meet people like yourself from all across the United States. I have made some great friends at this conference who understand me and with whom I can share the journey to becoming an educator.

Aspiring Educators holds elections for preservice members to serve on the NEA Board of Directors and the NEA Resolutions Committee. Every other year, an election is held for the Aspiring Educators chairperson. In my second year attending the conference, I was elected to serve on the NEA Resolutions Committee. This committee proposes to the NEA Representative Assembly (NEA RA) resolutions that express the beliefs of NEA on matters related to public education. NEA Resolutions are an important document that helps govern NEA positions and actions.

Serving on that committee, I learn about—and have an influence on—education policy at the national level. I learned the process by which resolutions are brought to the floor at the NEA RA to be considered by its nearly 7,000 delegates. As you listen to the debate among delegates and work with your own state and collaborate with delegates from other states, you can’t help but be inspired by your colleagues.

Because of the path I chose to leadership through NJEA Preservice, I feel prepared to enter the classroom and tackle the tough discussions that are needed in our classrooms.

If you know college students preparing to become teachers who aren’t NJEA Preservice members, send them here. Help them sign up. Let them know that when they become members, they are opening a door and welcoming themselves in a network of passionate, dedicated educators. They’ll gain access to free professional development that will make them the best educators they can be and enjoy many phenomenal benefits.

Preservice educators, are the future of education. By becoming involved in NJEA Preservice, we become more informed and more inspired along the way.

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