Anna Marriott is a middle school health teacher and co-director of the Waterloo Teacher Resource Center.
1. You are in your 12th year as a health educator, and have been active in your union as secretary. This year you were a delegate to the NYSUT 2017 Representative Assembly for the first time. What motivates you?
In recent years it seems that public schools and educators are under attack in many ways — from defunding public schools to student assessments that are not developmentally appropriate. I felt it was important to become more involved in the political process of NYSUT. This convention gave me a chance to hear the issues upfront and be able to voice those issues back at my local. We all get magazines and emails, but there is nothing to replace a face-to-face conversation with your local union members about the issues we face with our public schools and our profession.
2. What inspired you the most about the RA?
Knowing that we (as a WEA member and NYSUT member) have a voice. It is loud and we can make a difference.
3. Why is being a union member more important than ever right now?
Being part of a union allows me to speak up about issues that are not just about our jobs. Being part of a union is speaking out about social injustices, student rights, supporting public schools, etc. As union members, it's part of our job to educate legislators about what is going on because sometimes they are not really aware of what the underlying issues might be. Unions can be a strong voice for students and public schools; especially since the federal government has chosen an individual [Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos] who seeks to make school choice a household name.
4. Now that you've been to the RA, what will your next steps be?
I think we need to create awareness of issues among our locals and educate members about what is happening in the world of public education. We all have a tendency to stay in the trenches and just teach, but with the possibility of the state constitution being reopened and the increase in debate about school choice, it is important to educate and mobilize members to be active —whether that is visiting the NYSUT Member Action Center (MAC) once a month, writing a letter or email to a legislator or Board of Regents member, or hosting a forum about a local topic that affects our local schools. Political action is about being in the know, educating others and inspiring action among your local.
5. Teacher centers have suffered from diminished funding over the years. As co-director of the Waterloo Teacher Resource Center, what are some needs that are not being met?
In past years there have been deficits, but our district didn't lay off anyone as we lost staff through attrition and our union agreed to take a cut in our raises to save jobs. Our district was financially stable, but I think our staff missed out on professional development opportunities in the past and students missed out on enrichment activities. We also closed a K–5 elementary building. Our teacher center is a stand-alone center which didn't feel the pinch of defunding as much as other area teacher centers; however, we received word that our funding is up this year — a first in a while.