Preya Krishna-Kennedy is a social studies teacher and member of the Bethlehem Central Teachers Association.
1. The 2016 Representative Assembly in Rochester was your first as a convention delegate. Have you become more active in your union and, if so, why?
I have two children who are now old enough that I feel that I can get more involved, attend meetings and conventions. I have always known how important my union is. Older colleagues talk about the fights that they waged and won in the days before tenure, and I want to support colleagues from the fickle and sometimes arbitrary will of districts and the state. One of my union colleagues would always end his emails with "You are our union!" It would be selfish and irresponsible of me to not be involved.
2. What did you learn from the RA, and what will you share with your colleagues back in Bethlehem?
To hear the diverse opinions of our members certainly demonstrates the power of democracy within our union. Upstate, Long Island, rural, urban teachers, support staff and others all have different opinions and ideas that were seen and heard during the discussions, both in the general assembly and our specific committee meetings. It was democracy in action. The speeches by Hillary Clinton, Eric Schneiderman, Randi Weingarten and others were informative and inspirational. I will bring back to Bethlehem their message and spirit.
3. What motivates you to act on behalf of your students?
I started teaching in 1996. I have seen numerous policy and requirement changes. I want to teach students to become global citizens and good people. How I do this varies from year to year, and it's based on the requirements that the state and our profession have spelled out for me. I feel an important responsibility to make my students aware of history and the world and be as caring and empathetic as they can be.
4. How has your local union been more active in defense of the teaching profession and attacks on unionism?
Our local has always been active. In the last couple of years though, because of APPR, Common Core, cutting school funding and other issues, we have been even more involved. We have protested; we have worn colors to show solidarity; we have fought to limit budget cutbacks.
Like many districts, Bethlehem has lost teaching, support staff and many other positions. We have worked with the district and the community through the union, community meetings, phone calling and other activities to mitigate the potential losses. The past couple of years have been difficult seeing colleagues leave, dealing with the state's unfair evaluations, and the number of changes that have happened.
We need to make sure that we don't become complacent. We need to continue to fight for our students, our staff and our community through our union action and participation.
5. As a social studies teacher, how do you see the role of the working class and unions as part of the fabric of the different countries you teach about?
I teach global history. We discuss the importance of the working class and the importance of unionism all the time, especially in the post-industrial age when workers have been subjected to numerous unfair conditions, rules and requirements. Unions have helped the working class gain rights and benefits that should be given to all and (helped workers) deal with the structural economic changes of the past few decades. Unions have promoted democracy and have protected us from arbitrary and unfair bosses and laws. Without unions, the working class would have little power and would suffer. Unions make us stronger!