I am Shelli Lavinder Schwalk, president of the Great Falls Education Association – Local 7583 – YOUR union.
As our country was born, and our Constitution ratified, the founding fathers understood that a properly functioning democracy would be dependent on an “informed electorate.” John F Kennedy stressed the importance of an educated population saying, “Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our Nation.” Throughout time, leaders of this nation have understood the importance of a quality education for ALL students.
And now, public schools are under attack.
A warm, uplifting, welcoming convocation message… how do I take you there? Let me take you there by reminding you of the power you hold.
While you could have chosen ANY profession, you chose teaching. Not just any teaching position, but instead, one in PUBLIC EDUCATION. You welcome and teach ALL CHILDREN regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, creed, gender, ability or disability …YOU made the decision to teach EVERY CHILD who walks through your door. You teach the curriculum you are entrusted to teach, ensuring that our students grow to be the informed electorate referred to by Thomas Jefferson. Even more significantly, you help students learn compassion, empathy, and tolerance. You guide them through the process of differentiating between fact and opinion. You feed them when they are hungry. You love them – even when they “seem” unlovable. You see in them what they cannot see in themselves. You see your students for the miracles they are–for the difference they will make today and tomorrow. Each day you show up, not for work, but for our kids.
The change our world needs, and the unity of our country depend on the generations to come. Those generations count on you. Be proud of your career. The trust placed in you, the job you do, is vital to the success of this nation.
In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Young people such as Malala know…You will change the world, one child, one pen and one book at a time. You will make a difference. The future of the world is in your classroom today.
You cannot do this alone; you are surrounded by support teams. Teams you will create in your schools, the GFEA team, the MEA-MFT, NEA and AFT teams. These people stand ready to help you. Reach out to one another, support one another, create your own teams. Together we are stronger; together, we will make this world a better place.
Thank you to every one of you who spends countless hours, paid and unpaid, preparing to educate our students. To those volunteering in various capacities throughout the summer and upcoming school year–thank you.To our administration, support staff, bus drivers, food service and custodial staff–thank you!
Let me take a moment to thank my “teams.” My GFEA Executive Board, Faculty Representatives, Administrative Assistant, my MEA-MFT field consultant−and especially−those of you who believe in the values of a vital, public education system, and who work toward achieving the best possible education for our students. Thank you for your work and your commitment. We honor you. We value you. We support you, your students and our community; we will fight for you and the resources you need to create the leaders, dreamers, builders and thinkers of tomorrow.
Remember, I am part of your team. I am committed to helping you be the absolute best you can be. Contact me any time I can be of assistance. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.
Have an amazing 2017-2018 school year.