NJEA celebrates women in education

On March 26, NJEA held its first-ever Celebration of Women Luncheon at the Grand Marquis in Old Bridge. The event was organized by NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Petal Robertson and the NJEA Women in Education (WIE) Committee. Over 250 members attended the extravaganza, hosted by Robertson and NJEA UniServ Field Representative Fatima Hayes, former chair of the WIE Committee.

The theme of the celebration was “A Woman’s Place.” Six women were honored for their work in health, leadership, legislation and service, including Sue Maurer for her work in legislation. Among the speakers was NJREA President Joan Wright, who shared Maya Angelou’s poem “Phenomenal Woman.”

“The theme of the poem is about self-acceptance rejecting societal beauty standards,” said Wright. “Real beauty comes from within…It is a place of self-confidence and self-acceptance. A phenomenal woman has faith and believes in herself. She is confident, believes in her inner strength, is compassionate and is a visionary.  No matter the pressures of society to conform and be who others want you to be, inner self belief is what makes a phenomenal woman phenomenal.” The biggest applause during this recitation came when Wright read the classic words, “I’m a woman, phenomenally/Phenomenal woman/That’s me.”

The celebration was punctuated with three brief dance breaks that consisted of 30 to 60 seconds of exhilarating music. Members were encouraged to stand and dance near their seats, but many members spontaneously hit the dance floor. The breaks created a contagious vibe of pure joy that permeated the event.

Among the members recognized for their work in the advancement of women’s issues, NJREA member Sue Maurer is one of the most recognizable faces in spaces where policies that have an impact on educators in New Jersey are discussed. She is currently the co-chair of the NJREA Government Relations Committee after a career of leadership in Sayreville Education Association, the Middlesex County Education Association, NJEA and NEA.

Following the celebration, many attendees noted that this was among the best NJEA events they had ever attended, and that they look forward to next year’s celebration. For more photos from the Celebration of Women, visit flickr.com/njea/albums .