Reagan Duncan, CA
As a Kindergarten and first grade teacher at Maryland Elementary School, I get to work with wonderful students and their families who come from all walks of life. At my school, 89% of our students are English learners, and just as many are low socioeconomic status families receiving free and reduced lunch.
Coupled with not knowing the language, the lack of resources in our students’ homes makes it difficult for parents to know why students may be struggling in school, what additional help or services they need, and exactly what is available to them through our school.
I believe it is my responsibility to stand up for our students and their parents whether it be by informing them of their rights or in a meeting to discuss an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Often time parents have disabilities too and that makes it even more challenging for us as educators to address, so it’s extremely important that everyone involved is able to speak their mind and give their professional opinion on the best course of action for any given student. As educators we want all our students to have a fair shot at succeeding so we’re willing to do whatever it takes to ensure they get the attention they need.
That is also why, through negotiations between my union and the school district, we were able to secure smaller class sizes for our students. Backed by extensive research we all know it makes a monumental difference to have smaller class sizes. We have the ability to reach our students and meet them where they are, as well as focus on their individualized needs to ensure they are successful throughout their formative years and in the future.
Students and their parents often thank us for being their advocates in securing classes that allow them to learn freely and to love what they are learning. It’s those “aha” moments that keep me energized and passionate about being an educator and being able to speak up on behalf of students in my community.
I am a proud union member for many reasons but primarily because of what belonging to a union allows me to do for my kids. I’ve seen, firsthand, that my voice is heard through the collective bargaining process and the results ensure our students have the quality public schools they deserve right in their own backyards. The Friedrichs case threatens to do away with my colleagues’ and my ability to stand up for our students and come up with ways to improve their learning conditions. After coming such a long way it would be a travesty to lose those rights that ensure our students have the tools they need to succeed today and tomorrow.