By Angie Ghaly, NJEA Preservice secretary, Rutgers University, New Brunswick

When I first entered my teaching program at Rutgers, joining the union was the last thing on my mind. In between papers, clinical hours, lesson plans, and learning pedagogy, I never thought about it. I joined NJEA Preservice in order to meet other students like myself who were planning on becoming teachers.

Little did I know how beneficial joining NJEA is. This year I serve as the NJEA Preservice secretary, and my experience so far has been nothing short of amazing.

Joining the NJEA Preservice opened up a door of possibilities and education. I’ve attended countless conferences that engage college students and give us real-life professional development that can be used in the classroom. I have also met countless people who have turned into lifelong friends, who value the importance of not only educating our youth but of working toward a more just society and doing what is best for our communities.

Beyond allowing me to benefit from professional development sessions, NJEA Preservice has encouraged and strengthened my leadership skills. On a practical level, NJEA protects me as a student teacher by providing me liability insurance in the classroom during my clinical hours.

When you are a student teacher, nobody really takes the time to teach you about what the union is or what it does. NJEA Preservice allows students the chance to meet leaders from different local and county associations all over New Jersey who are focused on serving their unions as well as protecting the rights of their members. NJEA Preservice allows me, as a student teacher, to get a feel for how I can become a contributing member while becoming comfortable in joining the union.

When you are a student teacher, nobody really takes the time to teach you about what the union is or what it does. NJEA Preservice allows students the chance to meet leaders from different local and county associations all over New Jersey who are focused on serving their unions as well as protecting the rights of their members.

Now that I am an NJEA member and future educator, NJEA Preservice allows me to look at the big picture and gives me the tools and resources I need to best advocate for my fellow student teachers and my students. By being a contributing member, I have a voice in my profession. This means making sure that all students to have access to a free public education and the classroom resources they need, fighting for better classroom sizes, and advocating for budgets that afford me and my colleagues the resources to provide the best education we can for our students.

Public schools are required to adhere to collective bargaining agreements as well as protect my rights as a worker and educator. After my years of studying, attaining a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, and passing multiple Praxis Exams, the union has my back by making sure that I am getting paid the salary that I deserve. Sticking with my union ensures that I can afford to stick with my school.

Thanks to NJEA, future educators no longer have to settle for starting salaries that do not provide a living or that do not reflect their educational background. I value my students and their education, the union values me as an educator by making sure my rights are respected.

When I become a certified and employed teacher, I intend on paying my dues and becoming an NJEA member. My union has supported me thus far; I plan to continue supporting my union.

Standing with my union does not mean just paying dues–it means being an active and contributing member of my union. As I transition into becoming a full-time member, I hope to be a contributing member by recruiting others to join and talking to them about what it means to be a part of the NJEA. Recruiting more NJEA and NJEA Preservice members means having a stronger voice in the association and in the profession. We must remember that we not only advocate for ourselves, but for our future students as well. Having a stronger voice and presence means being able to attain more and do more for ourselves, our fellow teachers, and our future students.

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