I am Shelli Lavinder Schwalk, president of the Great Falls Education Association - local 7583 – your union. I am both honored and humbled to have been elected to represent you.
I remember sitting in the audience during the Great Falls Public Schools opening convocation in 1995, only days after being hired. I remember feeling as though I had won the golden ticket. Today, at the start of my 22nd year in this district I feel the same; this district is the best of the best!
The focus, mission, and strategic plan that made this district the best in 1995 might look a little different today; but the core of what makes this district the best is the same.
Look around you - you are surrounded by the best of the best. The teams created as you build relationships with those around you, are what makes Great Falls Public Schools – Great.
Your teams have some important work to do this year. What you do each and every day in your classrooms, buildings and in our community matters in a profound way. Humanity is counting on our young people to make this world a better place, and you have been entrusted with the responsibility and honor of making sure our students are prepared to make that happen.
The content you teach is not just math, reading or science, the paper you assign is not just an essay, the book you help our students understand is not just reading. YOU are never *just* a teacher. The content material, and especially, life lessons you will help our students learn; matter in ways we may not yet understand.
People like the woman who will be able to walk pain-free because of the physical therapy she was provided - or the family who will receive closure and justice for their loss due to the lawyer your student will become – they are counting on you.
People living in buildings designed to withstand natural disasters – those people are counting on you.
The peace of mind, safety and security we all experience knowing that the women and men who protect our country and serve in law enforcement are well educated, compassionate and caring - depends on you.
Ensuring our students understand the election process; helping them understand how to differentiate between fact and opinion, teaching them tolerance, diversity, and equity – are aspects of a job entrusted to you.
For this world to change, for our nation to experience unity, depends on the generations to come and those generations are counting on you. You will make this happen.
Let me remind you; you will not do this alone – you cannot do this alone; you are surrounded by teams of greatness. Teams you will create in your schools, the GFPS team, the GFEA team, the MEA-MFT team, NEA, AFT and AFL-CIO teams. All of these teams stand ready to help you. Together we will make this world a better place, one student at a time. You are the nucleus around which everything else will come together. You will make a difference and your students will appreciate you.
Let me take a moment to thank my “teams”. Brian Crosby and CMR video productions, Tim Seery, GFEA, MEA- MFT and those of you who believed in me and voted for me – Thank you. To those of you volunteering in various capacities throughout this summer and upcoming school year – thank you. Each and every one of you who spend countless hours paid and unpaid preparing to educate our students – thank you.
Remember I am part of your team, I am committed to helping you be the absolute best you can be. Contact me anytime I can be of assistance. Have a GREAT 2016-2017 school year.