By Matthew Yuro
NJEA Preservice leaders throughout New Jersey attended the National Education Association Aspiring Educators (NEA-AE) Conference in Orlando, Florida in late June. Held yearly just prior to the NEA Representative Assembly, the NEA-AE Conference brings together future educators from across the nation. They attend professional development workshops, an exciting GramAEs awards night recognizing outstanding state and local chapter achievements and vote to elect the 2023-24 national leadership team. I was elected to the NEA Resolutions Committee for a one-year term as one of three aspiring educator representatives.
We participated in “union communities,” where we researched a given topic and identified ways to advocate around that issue at the local, state and national levels of our union. Some of these topics included disability justice, honesty in education, and arts integration in education.
The NJEA Preservice delegation consisted of six members from various colleges and universities in the state. To supplement our teacher preparation programs, we participated in educational workshops such as Getting to Know Your Union, Disability Justice: Looking to Future Leaders to Dismantle Disabling Environments, and Decolonizing Curriculum and Abolitionist Teaching.
These workshops not only built our base of authentic instructional and societal knowledge, but also gave us more confidence in pursuing an activist platform in our union. We attended a rally in the NEA’s Honesty in Education protest held after the conference. NEA Aspiring Educators stood alongside full-time members in solidarity protesting the unjust laws and regulations enacted under the DeSantis administration in Florida.
NJEA Preservice is also proud to announce that we won many awards at the GramAEs this year, taking home the award for Outstanding State Project with our Eliminate EdTPA campaign. The Student New Jersey Education Association at The College of New Jersey also took home the award for Outstanding Local Project for Pack-A-Backpack, a school supply drive donated to Ewing High School for students in need.
Overall, NJEA Preservice members were able to grow our leadership skills and strengthen our union activism by attending this national experience. We look forward to attending the 2024 Aspiring Educators Conference in Philadelphia next year!
Matthew Yuro is the president of NJEA Preservice. He is a junior at The College of New Jersey where he is studying special education, elementary education and history. Learn more about NJEA Preservice at njea.org/preservice.