The First Five Years

The Early Career Network podcast 

By Hannah Pawlak 

The NJEA Early Career Network has launched a podcast titled “The First Five Years,” which broadcasts content of interest to members in their early years working in public education and as association members. We just completed Season One, which features various NJEA and NEA Member Benefits programs and other resources including SAVI, California Casualty, Realty Executives, and Hipp grants.  

Within the episodes 

The season kicked off with an episode on college debt featuring our NEA Member Benefits partner, SAVI, a loan consolidation tool run by experts in the field. Each year, SAVI helps many people save money on their college loans. We tackled tough questions such as how we got to where we are with student loan debt. We also offered helpful terminology and outlined the steps to access forgiveness plans.  

Within the podcast, listeners also learn how to apply for a Hipp grant. These are offered by the NJEA Frederick L. Hipp Foundation for Excellence in Education to fund educators’ ideas as they embark on grassroots innovative projects. All members, regardless of job category, are eligible to apply for a grant. The episode offered tips and tricks for getting an application accepted.  

An episode on the housing market was informative and timely as real estate is currently booming. On this episode our experts from Realty Executives, a full-service real estate brokerage, and California Casualty, an auto and home insurance provider for public school employees, detailed the home buying process while breaking down mystifying aspects that often confuse first-time homebuyers.  

The podcast also features an episode on NJEA Preservice, the NJEA membership category open to those studying to be an educator at a New Jersey college or university.  

The season ended with a “what I wish I knew” episode featuring Elisabeth Yucis, an associate director in the NJEA Professional Development and Instructional Issues Division. She gave advice to those starting their careers.  

These episodes not only answer members’ questions, they give actionable resources to help members utilize the discounts and savings plans that come with their NJEA membership. The First Five Years is in an “ask the expert” style, so listeners are provided with reliable information.  

Good Vibes Friday 

Between the episodes, early career members from across the state end the week with a mindfulness practice or guided meditation to harbor positivity leading into the weekend. In these segments an early-career member leads the listeners through a relaxation method that gives them piece of mind when looking to destress and relax. Those who are interested in recording an episode for Good Vibes Friday should feel free to contact me expressing their interest. 

Listen now 

You can access the podcast—and all previous episodes—at You can also access the podcast by searching its name on various platforms such as Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Prime Music, and more.   

We are looking forward to recording our second season featuring more valuable resources coupled with early career member testimonials for further authenticity. Access the podcast here on various platforms such as Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Prime Music, and more.   

Hannah Pawlak is the Local Evaluation Committee chair for the Highland Park Education Association, and a teacher at Highland Park High School. She represents Middlesex County on the NJEA Certification, Evaluation, and Tenure Committee. Pawlak is an NJEA organizing consultant. She can be reached at To learn more about the NJEA Early Career Network, visit