‘Unite, Inspire, Lead’: Educators Gather at NEA Leadership Summit

NEA_leadership_summitEducators empower students to follow their dreams on a daily basis, but this past weekend, 1,500 educators came together to empower one another at NEA’s third annual National Leadership Summit held in Dallas, Texas.

Educators representing all 50 states were in attendance for the summit, “Unite, Inspire, Lead: Empowering Educators for Success.” Participants attended high-level breakout sessions that addressed all six NEA leadership competencies: Advocacy, Business, Governance and Leadership, Communication, Organizing and Leading our Professionals.

With breakout sessions revolving around NEA’s competency based framework, the conference aimed to help prepare NEA members to become the best educators possible, through discussions on leadership skills, the importance of collaboration, effective communication and campaign building.

In her keynote address to the summit, NEA President Lily Eskelsen García reinforced the importance of the summit.

“We are here to learn about the power of our voice – our individual voice and our collective union megaphone to tell our stories – we’re here to learn new ways to do big things with that voice,” Eskelsen García said. “Everything that you are about to experience in the next two days is consciously, carefully designed and aligned to give you something – not just to learn – but to examine and chew on it and reflect about what it means or doesn’t mean to you.”

General sessions were held all three days; with keynote speakers and moderators from various fields hoping to ignite sparks of creativity and offer fresh ideas and plans of action for educators to take back to their own schools and districts.

Erik Wahl, an internationally recognized graffiti artist and a best selling author for his book “Unthink” used his gift of painting to illustrate his key message: encourage organizations toward profitability through innovations and superior levels of performance.

Bringing expertise in providing a continuum of education programs for African American students, David J. Johns, the executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, moderated a discussion on racial injustice in education.

Bertice Berry, sociologist and best-selling author, closed the conference with her discussion appropriately titled, “Unite, Inspire, Lead.”

The Leadership Summit gave educators the opportunity to address and answer questions regarding real issues and challenges that educators face everyday. Workshops were also offered, giving educators the opportunity to engage outside of the general sessions and to lead innovative and focused discussions on moving ideas to action.

“You will need to begin to unthink some of the ways we’ve always done things,” Eskelsen Garcia told the attendees. “You will have to invent new tools to advocate and fight for our members and our students.”