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Be inspired. July 2018 | Vol. 95 | Issue 5 |



Welcome to the Inspiration Issue

4 Editor’s Notebook Teachers Touch Lives 6 MEA Calendar MEA Summer Leadership 8 Lobbying Insider Fixing the Reading Law 9 Be Inspired Stories of Greatness 24 Whitmer Education Plan Respecting and Investing

The MEA members featured in the magazine this month are everyday educators like you, doing great work under difficult circumstances and providing service to their schools and communities that goes well beyond their job descriptions. Like you, of course, they struggle with challenging students, attempt projects that occasionally fizzle, and lie awake at night searching for the key to unlock the potential of that one struggling child who hasn’t put the puzzle pieces together despite everyone’s best efforts. Through highs and lows, they persist in efforts that too often go unheralded. Like you these educators create inviting learning spaces from garage sale finds and lovingly repurposed scraps. They embed skills development in projects that connect students to communities, as in the case of Jennifer Zeller, the teacher pictured on this month’s cover. They capture kids’ imaginations with books and humor and music and experimentation. And when they notice a child in need, they give even more. We hope you’ll be inspired reading about school employees just like you,

Paula J. Herbart President

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who are fighting the same battles to build a better future for our children, our state, and our country. We share more in common than concern, commitment, and accomplishment— our union ties bind us together. And MEA’s recommended candidate for governor, Gretchen Whitmer, stands shoulder-to-shoulder with us. She has always been there for school employees—since before Republicans’ closed-door Right to Work vote, through the Michigan Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in our 3 percent case, to this moment right now. As Senate Minority leader, Gretchen fought tooth and nail against rightwing attacks on collective bargaining rights, and she voted against seizing 3 percent of school employees’ wages to fund retirees’ health care. She repeatedly pushed back against raids on the School Aid Fund.

The daughter and granddaughter of educators, Gretchen understands the work that you do. She knows the challenges you face. She shares your concerns about school employees’ eroding pay and benefits, nonexistent classroom resources, and lack of respect. She recognizes the connection between quality public schools and quality of life. Great public schools are the engine of economic vitality, and educators are the heart and soul of those neighborhood schools that are the centers of our communities. She appreciates what you do. Gretchen has committed to listening to the professionals in the field when it comes to education policy. In fact, hundreds of our members shared their input to help shape her education plan, which you can read about on page 24. So be inspired this summer— especially when it comes to voting for Gretchen Whitmer for governor in the August 7 primary. Our students are counting on us. 

She gets it.

Chandra A. Madafferi Vice President

Brett R. Smith Secretary-Treasurer

26 Why we’re with Whitmer Members Back Gretchen 27 MEA Primary Voter Guide Elect Friends of Education On the Cover: Michigan Center teacher Jennifer Zeller appears with MEA’s recommended candidate for governor, Gretchen Whitmer (photo by Tom Gennara)

Executive Director��������������������� Michael Shoudy Director of Public Affairs������������������ Doug Pratt Editor������������������������������������������������Brenda Ortega Staff Photographer����������������������� Miriam Garcia Publications Specialist���������������Shantell Crispin The MEA Voice ISSN 1077-4564 is an official publication of the Michigan Education Association, 1216 Kendale Blvd., East Lansing, MI 48823. Opinions stated in the MEA Voice do not necessarily reflect the official position of the MEA unless so identified. Published by Michigan Education Association, Box 2573, East Lansing, MI 48826-2573. Periodicals postage paid at East Lansing and additional mailing offices. Payment of the active membership fee entitles a member to receive the MEA Voice. Of each annual fee whether for active or affiliate membership, $12.93 is for a year’s subscription. Frequency of issue is September, December, February, April and August. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to the MEA Voice, Box 2573, East Lansing, MI 48826-2573 or via email at Allow at least three weeks for change of address to take effect. MEA Voice telephone: 517-332-6551 or 800-292-1934. Circulation this issue: 101,425

10—MEMBERS AT WORK: Jennifer Zeller and her second graders change lives in a senior living home.

20—STRENGTH IN UNION: Hear from MEA members who joined Wear Red Wednesdays and Walk-ins.

22—ELECTION 2018: The first woman to lead a party caucus in the Senate, gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer is a longtime champion of public education who will respect educators as governor.

31—MEMBER BENEFITS: Higher education experts explain choices in MEA’s free college program.

34—MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Educator Sheryl Kennedy never expected to be running for political office. MEA VOICE  3



Editor’s Notebook The past year has been challenging for my extended family, especially my dad, who moved into assisted living and agreed to let my siblings and me sell his house. At first he wasn’t sure about the decision. “Shouldn’t my goal be to move back home?” he asked me more than once. He appreciated help with living tasks—cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping—not to mention interaction with people and daily activities. The tipping point began when he ran into an old friend living there. “That you, Whitey?” he called to the pal he’d lost track of several years ago. He fully embraced the change as he made new friends—Leo, Ed, Lois, Maury—who enjoy friendly banter, laugh at Dad’s jokes, and encourage him to sing even though his singing voice isn’t the best. (Sorry, Dad. I still appreciate your enthusiasm for performance.) Then there are his new friends Kaden and Layne, who like running around outside with friends and playing video games. I first saw the two seven-year-olds in photographs hung on Dad’s refrigerator in his apartment at Countryside Manor in Jackson. Artwork and letters from the boys started appearing alongside pictures of Dad’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I asked him who they were, and he said, “Those are my buddies.”


Amount the state of Michigan agreed to spend to set up a program to screen Flint residents for effects of lead exposure. The program, set to start this fall under the leadership of Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha—the pediatrician credited with calling attention to the water crisis—represents partial settlement of a lawsuit brought by Flint parents and children. The partnership between the medical profession and schools will also connect residents to services.

I didn’t think much about it until I was leaving work one day in May. My sister sent a link to an M-Live story, and there was my dad in the first sentence: “Jim Day was brought to tears of joy.”

MEA members in Pinconning were joined by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer for a walk-in on May 9.

The article, titled “Second graders befriend seniors, learn lessons in listening, writing, friendship,” stopped me in my tracks. Schoolchildren had spent time all year getting to know senior buddies, interviewing them, and writing a hardcover book about their lives.

After Kaden and Layne presented the book during a luncheon at the Manor, Dad told the M-Live reporter: “You’ll think I’m making this up, but I’m not; this book brought tears to my eyes. It’s doing it again right now. It’s really nice what they’ve done. This doesn’t happen every day.” Indeed. This special project happened because an MEA member dreamed it, wrote a grant, and prepared her students to build relationships across generations. Read more about the project by Michigan Center teacher Jennifer Zeller on page 10. The best part of my job is celebrating educators like Zeller—and you— who do unsung work to shape skilled, creative, connected young people, transcending test scores to make the world a better place to be.

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Dad and buddies, Layne and Kaden

Hear from MEA members who participated in this spring’s Wednesday walk-ins and #WearRedForPublicEd campaign on page 20.

—Brenda Ortega, editor

“I still get weirded out by the whole celebrity thing, but it’s phenomenal that these kids are getting this excited about math.” Darnell Boursiquot, a 26-yearold Haitian immigrant, quoted in Education Week. Boursiquot has become a wildly popular autographsigning tutor at Algebra Nation, a free online learning platform where instructors sprinkle teaching about math concepts with jokes and dance moves.

ABOVE AND BEYOND Students at a Flint middle school interviewed their mothers or other important women in their lives and created quilt squares about them for a work of art now hanging in the University of Michigan Art Gallery. Holmes STEM Academy teacher Melissa Leaym-Fernandez wanted kids to see their caregivers in a new light—as women with hopes, dreams, fears and experiences to share.

“We have never seen darker days for unions and for working people and for people of color and for women than we are experiencing at this time. [Yet] I have never been more confident. It is beyond hope. I see a movement, and unions are at the core of this movement.” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, speaking to Britian’s The Guardian newspaper about a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Janus v. AFSCME case, which sought to divide union members and limit their collective bargaining power. To learn more, go to




UPCOMING EVENTS July 31-August 2 Summer Leadership Conference Saginaw Valley State University, Saginaw Sessions at this MEA conference help association leaders and members be informed and engaged on topics that include organizing, advocacy, political action, professional development, legal issues, and communications. For more information, go to

August 7 Michigan Primary Election Statewide Michigan primary voters will select party nominees from a field of Democratic and Republican candidates for a slew of races that will eventually determine the next governor of Michigan and the makeup of the state House and Senate.

October 9 Voter registration deadline Online or various locations This is the last day to register to vote in the Nov. 6 Michigan General Election. Go to to register or to check if you are registered, see a sample ballot, and find your polling place. Or visit your local Secretary of State office to submit an application in person.

October 26 Higher Education Bargaining Conference MEA Headquarters, East Lansing The conference features sessions designed specifically for higher education members. Sessions covering the trends in online learning, intellectual property, higher education funding, member engagement, and bargaining will provide the information and strategies to help higher education leaders strengthen their local associations.

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Waterford ESP Leader Joins Hall of Fame Drew Campbell, a Waterford custodian and union leader, has been named to the MEA ESP Hall of Fame. Campbell is known for his extensive anti-privatization work across Michigan and the U.S., but his guiding philosophy is what sets him apart, says Jim Sparapani, who heads MEA’s awards committee for Education Support Professionals. Members come first with Campbell. “He’s the type of person who goes over and above what anyone would normally do,” Sparapani said. “If they called Drew tomorrow and said, ‘We need you in Ironwood,’ Drew would be there. Drew would drop whatever he was doing and do whatever he could.” Campbell has fought privatization efforts in his own backyard and in districts across the state as an original member and leader of the Statewide Anti-Privatization Committee (SWAP). Eventually MEA’s SWAP team spawned an NEA privatization cadre, with Campbell and others taking materials they developed for swaying school boards on the issue to prepare people at conferences all over the country. Knowing he has trained thousands of ESP members and leaders in dozens of places is rewarding—especially given the fact that Campbell is retiring this summer. “What really touches me is to see people training others and using the materials that a small group of us put together originally,” he said. “We haven’t always won those fights, but we have a 60 percent success rate. That’s a lot of jobs saved.” A former local leader and MEA and NEA board member, Campbell steps down soon from his leadership of the ESP Caucus Executive Board knowing the fight will continue for those who step up to leadership in the ESP arena. 

New MESSA/Delta Dental fountains popular at schools Delta Dental's Teri Battaglieri with MESSA Executive Director Ross Wilson, MESSA Field Representative Tara Wilbur and others at Lockwood Elementary in Eaton Rapids Public Schools. (Tammy Pitts/MESSA)

Walk down any of the halls this fall at Lockwood Elementary in Eaton Rapids or Kolb Elementary in Bay City and you’ll likely spot students carrying MESSA/Delta Dental bottles, filled with water. Lockwood and Kolb were among the 61 schools statewide to receive new water fountains and bottle-filling stations this year, thanks to a grant from MESSA and the Delta Dental Foundation. In an effort to encourage students to drink more water during the school day and avoid sugar-sweetened beverages, MESSA partnered with Delta Dental to install the new fountains at schools that applied and were selected for the “Rethink Your Drink: Water’s Cool at School” program. MESSA Executive Director Ross Wilson and Field Representative Tara Wilbur joined students and school staff May 10 at Lockwood to celebrate the installation of the new fountains. Students signed a pledge vowing to continue to drink water, and also showed Wilson and Wilbur how to operate the new, high-tech fountains.

“It was great to see the enthusiasm from students and staff about the water filling stations, and it felt good to be a part of something that can help our members and their students develop healthy habits like drinking water,” Wilbur said. “I also loved the visual display showing how much sugar is in beverages that kids commonly take in their lunches like juice boxes. This was a great educational tool for students.” Moreover, water does indeed appear to be cool at this school; within three weeks of the fountains’ being installed, Lockwood students had already gone through about 6,000 reusable bottles of water, Principal Jason Zeller said. Representatives from MESSA and Delta Dental also gathered at Bay City’s Kolb Elementary in late May to officially announce that school’s new water-filling station. They were joined by students, teachers, administrators,

school district officials and mascots from Kolb and Delta Dental. “The kids are already experts at using their water-filling stations and even showed some of us grown-ups how to operate them,” said Thomas Morgan, a MESSA communications consultant who represented MESSA at the Bay City event. “More important, they’re learning about the myriad health benefits of drinking water instead of soda or juice. These kids are our state’s future, and we want them—as well as the school employees who serve them—to be healthy and happy.” Teachers at both schools said they were relieved to have the new water-filling stations just in time for the warmer weather, allowing students to stay hydrated. Health experts say adequate water intake is important for students’ growing bodies, and it also helps improve their learning. 




Be inspired.

MEA Members Recommend Fixes to Reading Law

The following stories of MEA members will confirm what you know: Educators are special beings.

One of the substantial complaints we hear as MEA lobbyists is that school employees do not have enough of a voice in policymaking. Laws get passed without input from teachers and support staff on the ground. This spring, MEA has moved to shift that paradigm with one such law— Third Grade Reading. Educators now have one year of experience implementing the new reading law, which brought big changes to early literacy efforts in the classroom—including K-3 assessments three times per year and individual reading improvement plans (IRIPs) for students reading below grade level. In 2019, fourth-grade retention requirements begin for students labeled one year or more behind. Historically legislators have not addressed needed changes to educational laws once they go into effect, but the stakes are too high to keep ignoring problems. This law will be in place for some time, so our goal is to fix issues that our members have encountered in the classroom. How can the law be improved to better help students and educators be successful? MEA has taken that simple query into the field to gather input from the folks who know what is working and what is not, and who understand what is needed to truly move the needle on literacy for the state’s youngest and most vulnerable learners. Since April we have gathered educators for focus groups in Adrian, Flint, Livonia, Grand Rapids and Traverse City to share experiences and ideas about how to move forward. One more will be held at August’s

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They transform ordinary rooms into creativity zones. Love other people’s kids as their own. Improvise through constraints of time, materials, and all manner of unexpected events. Multi-task like no others. Illuminate, coach, and guide.

MEA Summer Leadership Conference at Saginaw Valley State University. Their top recommendations will be forwarded to legislative leaders, and that is key. We have worked for months to lay the groundwork for this initiative by keeping lawmakers apprised and securing their commitments to listen. What we heard from educators in these thoughtful and frank focus groups is that the law opened up new conversations and collaboration at the building level, but it came with more mandates than resources. Participants worried creativity and joy will be squeezed out of classrooms. Funding for reading specialists, instructional coaches, and classroom materials is inadequate. Timeconsuming paperwork requirements arrived without relief from large class sizes. And retention looms despite schools’ lack of control over variables such as student poverty and transience. A Grand Rapids second-grade teacher summed up the sentiments of many: “The law penalizes students who are already starting behind without giving us anything to help bridge the gap.” We are still culling through results. So far common suggestions are to remove kindergarten and young-five students from requirements; decrease mandated K-3 testing; increase literacy coaches; and exempt special education students from needing both IRIPs and IEPs.

By Dr. David Michelson MEA Lobbyist

Too often education laws pass, do not work as intended, and get upended for something different several years later. That approach hurts kids. It is past time to begin a new paradigm to monitor and improve legislation by inviting educators to bring their expertise to bear in the policy arena. 

It takes strength most people don’t possess and fortitude most politicians can’t understand. It’s for the kids and the future. And it’s why public education is worth fighting for.

An Uplifting Achievement Kenowa Hills math teacher Lance Jones and science teacher Jeremy Cusick took their two-year-old STEM program to new heights in June. Ninth- and tenth-grade students in the class competed to design a payload for a weather balloon, and the winning team saw their plans launched into the atmosphere. The balloon traveled to 85,000 feet, and a GoPro camera onboard captured stunning images, before returning to Earth 100 miles away (which students had pretty closely calculated). View the story and pictures at STEMballoon. 


For Young and Old Virginia Fitch has a big family, but the elderly resident of an assisted living facility added two “great grandchildren” to her photo shelf this year—thanks to an inspired teacher’s class project. Fitch and 12 other seniors who live in Countryside Manor in Jackson were partnered with “buddies” from the second-grade class of teacher Jennifer Zeller. The youngsters traveled from their Michigan Center school several times during the year in Zeller’s richly layered project. “I wanted my kids to unplug from electronic devices and slow down, to learn about the value of stories and passing on legacies,” Zeller said. Another motivation was her own father, who suffered a series of health problems and moved into Countryside in 2015. She knew students had traveled to senior living facilities to present music programs in the past, and she wondered, What if I could do something more? Zeller’s inspiration became reality when her grant proposal secured funding for a bus. Before the first visit with their buddies, the students discussed the friends they were about to meet by reading a picture book, Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, by Mem Fox. It tells the story of a boy who helps an elderly friend to regain some of her memory. “We started talking about these people that we were going to meet and how they changed, and they moved to a different place and had to adjust to new surroundings,” Zeller said. “These are wonderful people who, the minute you walk in and say ‘Hi,’ they just light up.”

Kindergarten Stop Many news stories have been written about how much money teachers spend out of pocket each year on classroom supplies. But sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. After 32 years as an educator—almost all as a kindergarten teacher in Chippewa Valley—Carolann Jimison retired last month. First she had to clear out her room, and the contrast between before and after the cleanout (pictured in inset, right) reveals what love and dedication and imagination look like in action. Jimison says she was born to teach kindergarten, a position that many elementary teachers shy away from. The children often start the year nervous and unsure. Some know letters and numbers, while others have never 10  JULY 2018

touched a book. They must be taught everything about school. “I love how enthusiastic they are and how much they learn and grow in one year,” Jimison said. Her room was filled with bins of learning materials and hanging sleeves with math and literacy challenges, a wall of handmade word magnets, shelves stuffed with books and more books, scarves and puppets, stuffed animals and dress-up clothes. She supplied it all. “I want the kids to think they’re playing and having fun, so the learning is kind of disguised,” she said. “Five year olds are made to move.” Her husband is a woodworker she convinced to help her with a classroom need on their first date 30 years

Zeller realized her second graders might need the connection as much as their elderly buddies would. “I have a student that lost her dad this year and one who lost her mom last year. Some don’t see their parents because they’re in jail. Some are being raised by grandparents.” The seven-year-olds had to practice carrying conversations if the other person couldn’t hear perfectly or didn’t remember what was said. Two students were paired with each elderly buddy. Through several meetings, the kids shared artwork and written introductions. They led a “three about me” activity to spark conversation. They ate lunch with their buddies and sang songs together, such as “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Eventually, they recorded interviews on iPads. They researched unfamiliar historical terms, such as hoop stick, zeppelin, and washboard. And they produced hand-written illustrated books describing their buddies—authentic writing for an audience that elicited emotional reactions. “I’m treasuring that book; it’s my keepsake,” said Virginia Fitch (pictured, right), who has informally adopted her two buddies as “great granddaughters.” The girls plan to visit this summer, and “I’ve got their picture up among all my family,” she said. “Two more fit right in.” 

ago. “I knew if he was willing to make a bookshelf for me, he was a keeper,” she said. He later built a loft for students to climb up and listen to audio books in cushy seats with stuffed animals, or go underneath to act out stories in dress-up clothes hanging from a coat rack nearby. Learning wasn’t a silent desk activity in Jimison’s classroom—it involved choice and movement and fun for her 26 students. New mandates from the state, or directives from her district, were adapted to fit her philosophy. She knew nothing works the same way for every student. “You’re so connected to the kids, you stay awake at night thinking what can I do for so-and-so student, trying to solve the riddles that come to you.”  MEA VOICE  11

Help From Friends For Hillsdale schools bus driver Sid Halley, this is a story of one kid and a whole lot of friends.

wrote grants to buy shelves, socks and personal hygiene items. Racks were donated. It’s a team effort, she said.

When one of Halley’s driver colleagues noticed a student in need of new clothing last fall, word went out to the community. The response was so huge that a project was born.

Her classroom aide, Gloria Jones, helps run the store. Students from her self-contained classroom assist with laundry and sorting. Bus drivers transport bins of goods to other schools, and the school’s custodian does whatever is needed. A retired teacher, Betty Griffiths, volunteers.

The student took home some pants, shirts, and shoes—and returned to school “walking around like he had on a king’s clothes,” said Halley (pictured, left). Meanwhile, the flood of clothing and other donations in response to the child’s plight led to the reopening of a long-shuttered used clothing store at Hillsdale’s Davis Middle School, known as “Davis Closet.” The converted classroom looks like a booming thrift shop. Students receive “Davis Bucks” to spend when the store is open on Fridays during lunch, but any student with a need will see it filled regardless of whether they have the pretend money or not. “There’s no stigma; they come in here and buy whatever they want, and it gives them a good feeling to buy their own stuff,” said Lora Glei-Dietz, the special education teacher whose Facebook post in November led to the deluge of donations. Glei-Dietz, who works with students who have mild cognitive impairments,

A Custodian and ‘Pillar’ When Steve Croschere heard that some attention-challenged students at Bothwell Middle School in Marquette needed standing desks to help them learn, he quietly set about making some. The school had been turned down for grant money to buy the expensive pieces of furniture, so the head custodian dug through old student desks cast off in various corners of district storage areas, rebuilt broken parts, and welded on leg extensions. 12  JULY 2018

“They’re not the most beautiful things, but they’re super effective, and they give our kids exactly what they needed,” said Lesley Addison, a guidance counselor at the school. Croschere brought skills as a former union carpenter and a 25-year volunteer Emergency Medical Technician when he started in the district 20 years ago. He approaches his job simply— always looking for ways to help.

“If I can do something to make a teacher’s life better or an administrator’s job easier, then I think I’m doing my job,” he said. In the winter, when Addison’s office is cold, he arrives early to open her door and warm up the room. He remodeled a reception area in the front of the building into an office. He’s constantly fixing and building shelves. And he serves on the building’s emergency response team. “He doesn’t make a big deal of it, but he sets a tone that makes other people

On one Friday last spring, students flowed in and out of the store digging through pants, shorts, and shirts— trying them on in a fitting room built by a parent and coming out to model for friends. Jones acts as a personal shopper, picking items and encouraging kids to try them on. “Come on, put a little bling in your life!” Jones declared to a girl unsure about the brightly colored shirt she was looking at. Everyone associated with the store has touching stories to tell—of kids changing into newly purchased clothes after buying them, students getting name-brand shoes and wearing them every day, of children’s happiness at discarding ill-fitting clothes for comfortable ones. “It’s heartwarming to get a crazy idea and have people give and keep on giving,” Glei-Dietz said. 

want to do better because he is such a pillar,” Addison said. As president of his local union, Croschere led a successful fight against privatization plans in the district six years ago. His message: in-house employees give more bang for the buck. “That’s what I try to teach the new people coming in,” he said. “Do your job and do a little bit extra. It’s just the way I was raised.” Croschere was honored this spring with MEA’s top award for Education Support Professionals (ESP), the Leon A. Brunner Award.  MEA VOICE  13

Community and Leadership After 18 years as an educator, Michigan’s newest Teacher of the Year is guided by a big-picture view of her role encompassed in three priorities. “We’ve got to keep the big things big,” said Laura Chang, a second grade teacher at Sunset Lake Elementary School in Vicksburg, who assumed the state’s top teacher mantle in May. “It’s easy to fall into the pressure of the race and the rush,” Chang said. “Sometimes we just need to take a breath and realize it’s OK if I don’t get through all of the content. It’s OK. I’m going to look at my kids’ data and start where they are and move forward from there.” Her first priority is to create kind, contributing members of the community who know how to lead and collaborate. The class sets academic and behavioral goals and monitors progress, “and if we fall short, we examine that as a group,” she said. The Sunset Lake staff just finished the second year of implementing the “Leader in Me” model, based on the work of Stephen Covey in his best-selling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The initiative aims to equip students as 21st-Century leaders. Five years ago, Sunset Lake was labeled a “Focus School” by the state, one step above the most struggling “priority” status. Three years of work in shifting the school’s culture and getting everyone pulling in the same direction has paid off with improved student achievement. Chang plays an integral role on the team leading change in the building, and she works as the district’s technology integration leader, but most importantly she inspires others as a joyful educator who “serves from the heart,” according to Principal Amie McCaw. Chang’s second priority is to inspire kids to be lifelong learners by making lessons fun, exciting, hands-on, and relevant, she said. “It’s so important that students understand the ‘why’ and the big picture of what we’re learning and how it will help them later in their life.” Empowering students to stand up for one another is her third priority. Children in her class role-play scenarios for how to respond if a schoolmate is being mistreated. “Kids don’t always learn those socio-emotional lessons at home, and it’s so important to creating a community.” Mistakes are celebrated, Chang said. “We always say, ‘Mistakes are expected, inspected and respected.’ Building classroom community is the most important thing we do.” 

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Laughter and Learning Neal Cronkite says his first year as an educator was a “train wreck.” Fast forward 12 years, and the middle school science and math teacher from Holt this spring was named the winner of a national award considered the “Oscar” of teaching. “That first year, my management wasn’t great,” he said. “I was focused a lot on making sure the kids liked me. I didn’t try and be their friend, but sometimes you see that teacher who stands up and says, ‘Friends, let’s all do this.” I tried to do that, and it didn’t work for me.” Now Cronkite has found his way to both run a tight ship and inspire joy, quietly but firmly redirecting his fifth graders when they misbehave but also joking with them, sharing in their personal lives, and even singing goofy songs with his guitar to create lasting bonds. “He laughs with us a lot,” student Lennon Vasquez said, “and he makes boring subjects fun.” For his leadership and creativity, the Washington Woods Middle School teacher was honored with the Milken Educator Award at a surprise ceremony this spring. “I was stunned,” he said. Cronkite is involved in many building and district leadership initiatives in math and science to make learning meaningful, increase student engagement, and help students self-assess through standards-based grading, in addition to mentoring new teachers. He coaches kids in reading competitions, leads a running club, and participates in “Erase the Word,” a campaign to stop derogatory language toward students with cognitive impairments.

He became a teacher to develop relationships that propel students in positive directions. “I thought if I could do that all my life, it’s a pretty good gig. It’s tough, but I haven’t regretted it.” His Milken award came with a mentor—a former winner from Florida who is helping him tap into professional networks and development to use the national platform he’s been given. The Milken Family Foundation encourages winners to exercise their voice in the public arena. “I’ve got a lot of things I’m passionate about,” Cronkite said. “I keep coming back to policy—that decisions are being made by people who aren’t aware of what really goes on in classrooms, and helping educate them. I guess that’s our job, right?”  MEA VOICE  15

For 30 years, Charlotte High School history teacher John Moran has organized an annual event connecting his students to Vietnam veterans willing to share their stories of war. The roundtable discussions started in 1989 as a way to give these vets the homecoming they deserved. “I felt they were treated badly when they came back, and I was going to do something about it,” the history teacher said. But as the survivors have aged, the event's purpose has changed.

History and Honor

This year’s program, which included a taco dinner at the Charlotte VFW Hall on the Friday before Memorial Day, brought together a few dozen CHS students and about 20 veterans for face-to-face talks about what it was like to serve in Vietnam.

“It’s crazy to think about all they went through, and I’ll probably never understand it completely,” said CHS senior Trenton Dowling, who recently joined the U.S. Navy. Moran (pictured, far left, second from left) is referred to by students and veterans alike as “Johnny Mo.” He teaches a popular elective class, “Lessons of the Vietnam War,” and his students also undertake a number of service projects to benefit veterans groups and causes. The students’ extra-curricular efforts reflect how the purpose of the Vietnam Veterans Roundtable has evolved over the years, Moran said. “It’s primarily historical now,” he said. “The veterans who’ve been coming all these years are pretty much healed. They’re feeling honored. Now it’s about passing the torch to the next generation.” Read the full story at CharlotteVets 

In 2011, a Stevenson High School student looking out of his physics classroom window saw potential in a dilapidated structure and started a club to rehabilitate the Livonia school’s longneglected greenhouse. Although he graduated, the club continues. The 1965 structure has not been used on a daily basis for more than 20 years. The district has been hesitant to allocate funds to refurbish such a building, so its rehabilitation is a student- and staff-led project. The club sponsor is Livonia Education Association member Karen Dillon. Over seven years, she worked with students to remove more than 20 bags of garbage, recondition the gravel floor, lay down a weed barrier, and replace windows. Karen wants the greenhouse to be used as a lab for biology or ecology to give students more direct exposure to nature.

Art and Science Story by Heidi Posh, Livonia Schools art teacher. Photos by SHS student Tatiana Smyk. 16  JULY 2018

“Allowing students to propagate or grow plants from seed is both fun and transformative,” she said. “They see how an organism is affected by its environment—including sunlight, water, and soil type—and I hope that realization encourages an attitude of stewardship for the earth.” Karen found a creative funding source: she asked art students to paint store-bought flower pots to sell. Ceramics student and high school senior Brian Olenczuk took the plan a step further. As an independent study student, Brian spent several hours a day on the pottery wheel and wanted to give back to his school, so he began throwing terra cotta pots for the project. Club members planted a small succulent in each of several hundred pots Brian made, and they began to sell. His handmade creations proved popular. Many teachers go above and beyond every day, but Karen Dillon is an inspiration to everyone. She is trying to utilize all available resources for students, and with a team of willing and able volunteers has planted a seed of hope for the rebirth of the Stevenson Greenhouse. 


Indoor to Outdoor The volunteers from AEM added bright colors and artwork to the culinary room—a theme they pulled into all of the school’s classrooms by donating small plants in decorated ceramic pots “to bring the outdoor learning space inside,” Isza said. Aspiring educators from Michigan State University wanted to connect indoor and outdoor learning spaces with their annual Outreach to Teach service project, held this year at Willow Elementary School in Lansing. Members and officers of MSU’s Aspiring Educators of MEA (AEM) chapter painted a culinary classroom in bright colors and created a community garden and outdoor learning area in a

previously abandoned courtyard in the center of the school. Picnic tables, sitting benches that convert to seats with writing tables, and raised garden beds created a welcoming space in what was formerly an empty and unused grassy rectangular area surrounded by classrooms on one side and hallways on the others, said Monica Isza, MSU’s AEM Vice President.

Good Advice

In our “Start of a Journey” series over the past year, you followed Zack Griffin and Brittney Norman through one year in the life of a new educator. Now listen as they share their advice for first-year teachers coming into the profession. Here’s a sampling of their observations:

The “e-word” is a hot topic in education.

Two of the five raised garden beds were filled with potting soil but left empty so the school’s gardening club could plant vegetables and herbs for use in the newly redecorated culinary classroom. The future educators also donated a cookbook they wrote for culinary students to use. In addition, the MSU students purchased school supplies and a gift for every teacher in the building. 

It’s important in the beginning of the year to reach out to parents and create a good relationship. I would definitely say I’m not a perfectionist anymore; I just have high expectations for myself. When I feel myself getting really overwhelmed at times, I try to take a step back. Teacher bladder—it’s a real thing!

Something from Nothing Future teachers from MEA college chapters around the state joined forces to help students at a rural elementary school in northwest Michigan turn ordinary bottle caps into a lovely sitting bench for their school campus this spring.

After collecting bottle caps for several months, the future educators worked with second- through fourth-grade students attending an after-school program to sort the donations by size and color. The kids were rewarded with popcorn and juice.

Aspiring Educators of MEA led students at Baldwin Elementary School in collecting more than 260 pounds of plastic bottle caps for the college students’ service project. That’s approximately 54,000 caps.

Then the sorted caps were transported to manufacturer Green Tree Plastics in Indiana.

Students at the year-round elementary school in Baldwin got their first look at the caps’ new incarnation as a yellow bench with black legs during an assembly last month, where they also learned which class earned a pizza party for collecting the most donations. “They were so proud of what they did— it was very heartwarming,” said Rachel Evans, vice president of the Ferris State University chapter of AEM.

The young students learned about recycling and reuse through the project, but as importantly, “They realized by coming together and working together, they could create something out of practically nothing,” Evans said. Aspiring educators participated from several universities, including Michigan State, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, and Saginaw Valley State University. The AEM chapter from Ferris coordinated the project. 

Battles and Strength Fifth-grade teacher Ryan Oleson could relate when he heard about a student at his Niles school who felt self-conscious about losing his hair from chemotherapy treatments—hair loss that would reveal a surgical scar on the back of his head. So the MEA member let the boy shave his full head of hair in the hallway at Brandywine Elementary School with classmates looking on. Afterward, Oleson and 11-year-old Colton Hubbard compared notes—Oleson also had a scar on his head from having a benign brain tumor removed when he was a child. “We had a moment where I said, ‘I was six when I got mine; how old were you?’ And he said, ‘Five.’ It wasn’t too exciting. Just kind of like, ‘Huh.’”

View the Advice for Your Start of a Journey video at 

Later, Oleson penned a moving note to Hubbard on a Facebook post commemorating the head shaving event: “Mr. Colton, you and I shared more than a haircut yesterday. We shared battle scars and a story of strength,” the message read in part. Young Colton has been battling the growth of non-cancerous tumors for the past several years, but he is surrounded by love, the teacher added. “He has a lot of love at home and a lot of love among his friends here and among all the staff here,” Oleson said. 

18  JULY 2018


In May and June, MEA members from across the state conducted Wednesday walk-ins and joined the #WearRedForPublicEd campaign, pressing lawmakers to value students, respect educators and fund our schools.

In every other profession, the importance of professionals is extremely important in decision making. In education, it’s business people, parents, politicians making the decisions—everybody but the experts who know the kids best. It goes back to respecting educators. Hear us. Michele Santiago, second grade teacher, Utica Community Schools

I want (lawmakers) to value the time and commitment we put in to our profession. Before decisions get made, they should at least try to understand what we do. Things on paper often look good, but it’s not always the reality of what goes on in the classroom. Mandy Spitzley, third grade teacher, Lakewood Public Schools

Frank Burger, high school science teacher, Carman-Ainsworth Community Schools

MEA members in Charlotte held a walk-in on May 23, after administrators threatened them with discipline for wearing red.

I wore red and participated in the “Wear Red for Public Ed” walk-in because as a union and as a profession it is time to take a stand and raise our voices for education. No matter what we teach, no matter the grade level, no matter the social-economic makeup of the community, we all became teachers for the same reasons: to educate children and give them the tools for success and to equip them to find their own path in this world. We all know it is an important

20  JULY 2018

and difficult job. We walk together because we are all in this together. We all contribute to the development of our students and the welfare of our community. One student’s success is a success story for every teacher. Conversely, one teacher’s struggle to help a child succeed is a struggle we’ve all shared. We have sat quietly for too long, suffering in silence from underfunding, from disrespect, and from school legislation that

has everything to do with politics and nothing to do with education. So I walked wearing red, in solidarity with my colleagues, in an effort to raise our voices and demand respect for a profession that is vital to every aspect of our society. One step at a time, one child at a time, one issue at a time, I believe that together we are taking the most important walk of our professional lives. Brian Herr, French/English teacher, Harper Creek Community Schools

We have seen so many drastic cuts to education in Michigan, leading to higher class sizes, less teachers, less paraprofessionals in our classrooms, less bus drivers. We’re now seeing a teacher shortage in the state of Michigan because of these funding cuts. Educators are fed up, and when we come together in a collective voice, that’s how we make change.

This is about the kids and getting the money we need to do the best for our children and our district. This is a phenomenal district with great teachers and great families, and we can make it even better. Let us have the tools to do what needs to be done.

Our union has the positive power to stand together and support each other and support our students. We need to make our voices heard in terms of really wanting the best for our kids. Jared DeWitt, fourth grade teacher, Walled Lake Consolidated Schools

MEA members can share their voices with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. #MEAmembervoices

Marsha Waymire, first grade teacher, Charlotte Public Schools




Stories by Brenda Ortega MEA Voice Editor Photo by Tom Gennara

them when they’re not able to wear every single hat that students need.” MEA’s Statewide Screening & Recommendation Committee voted unanimously to recommend Whitmer for governor to our members. Made up of MEA members from across the state, the committee interviewed candidates from both parties before making its decision. Throughout her political career, Whitmer has steadfastly supported educators and defended public education. As Senate Democratic Leader:

Whitmer Knows the Importance of Public Education In her travels all over the state campaigning to be the next governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer listens as much as she talks. Not long ago, the Democratic candidate was invited to read with kids at Detroit Children’s Hospital. Two boys, ages 5 and 11, sat with her after finishing some books. The younger child’s mother said, “Malachi, she’s running for governor; what do you think she should work on?” The boy thought for a minute and replied, “I want everyone to be able to read.” Recalling that moment later, Whitmer was moved again by the boy’s concern. “Think about a five-year-old lobbying for literacy,” she said. “Doesn’t happen very often, right?” Then she noted the wish offered by the 11-year-old, Corey: “I want everyone to have clean water.” He was from Flint, Whitmer pointed out. “Think about the stressors that children in this state are confronting 22  JULY 2018

that adults have to start getting right. That’s what this election is all about. That’s why I’m here, and that’s why we’re going to lead on education.” Whitmer is the daughter and granddaughter of educators. Her mother taught in Lansing schools for a while; her grandmother was an educator in Waterford, and her grandfather was superintendent of the Pontiac School District. Her children attend East Lansing Public Schools. “I know that a strong public education is what truly levels the playing field for kids, but it’s also what drives an economy and a high quality of life,” she said. “Right now, more than ever, we need a governor who can get things done and who is going to fight for the kids and the educators of our state.” The former prosecutor and state Senate leader has actively sought to

understand the current realities facing public schools and the dedicated teachers and support staff who infuse those buildings with life and learning every day. She solicited opinions and ideas from MEA members while developing her education plan, “Get It Done: Better Schools Now for Michigan Students,” which you can learn more about on page 24 of this issue or by visiting education. What she has gathered from countless conversations and written submissions from educators across Michigan is that school funding has been neglected, educators disrespected, and students shortchanged for too long. “Our teachers often find themselves in packed classrooms without the aid of a school nurse or school psychologist or a social worker or counselor,” she said. “We expect the teacher to do all of those things, and then we penalize

 She took on leaders from both parties when they tried to take money out of the School Aid Fund that was meant for educating our kids.  She fought against Republican attempts to destroy unions and take away the voice of educators in their working environments— which are our students’ learning environments.  And, from her initial vote against the bill that took money from our paychecks to her advocacy for our legal case ever since, she’s been with us every step of the way regarding our recent victory in the 3 percent case. Topping her education to-do list as governor will be to fix our broken school funding system, broaden learning opportunities from preschool to post-secondary, involve educators in policymaking, and rein in for-profit charter schools that have drained resources from public schools educating 90 percent of students. “We’ve got a lot of work to do,” she said. “That’s why I’m here. I want to make this the state where our kids stay and make their lives, where our families can thrive, where people start going back into the profession of education, where you know—no matter what community you go into—your children are going to get that great education.” 

Potential Whitmer–Schuette Matchup a Stark Contrast If Gretchen Whitmer is successful in her work to become the Democratic nominee for governor in the Aug. 7 primary election—as one who will fight for quality public education in the state—her likely Republican opponent in the November election could not provide a starker contrast. GOP frontrunner Bill Schuette is the term-limited state attorney general who fought MEA and AFT Michigan in court—filing appeal after appeal—to prevent the return of $550 million illegally taken from school employees’ paychecks in the 3 percent case. Whitmer voted against the 2010 law that allowed the state to unilaterally seize 3 percent of educators’ pay to fund current retirees’ health care. The law was unanimously struck down as unconstitutional by the Michigan Supreme Court last December, not long after Schuette made a political about-face and declined to assist in the last leg of the appeals process. Multiple appeals of court rulings by Schuette and Gov. Rick Snyder represent a political philosophy, Whitmer says: “Wear the little guy down, and then you can do anything you want.” Schuette is a longtime ally of Betsy DeVos who supports charter schools and publicly funded vouchers to pay for private school tuition. He defended DeVos when opposition nearly derailed her appointment as U.S. Education Secretary, writing an editorial in which he derided public schools as “a horse and buggy system built on corduroy roads.” After DeVos gave a disastrous 60 Minutes interview in which she displayed a stunning lack of knowledge about public education, Schuette tweeted his support: “Betsy DeVos is a smart and gifted leader in education… Great Secy (sic) of Education.” The close ties between Schuette and DeVos even inspired a satirical video and children’s picture book by the advocacy group Progress Michigan. Betsy and Bill tells the story of the two leaders’ plot to destroy public education in the style of an early reader. Learn more, and order your copy at Whitmer, on the other hand, has blasted the destructive influence over education policy that DeVos and her billionaire family have exerted through millions of dollars in campaign donations, incuding at least $136,000 to Schuette between 2009 and 2014. “One of the things we can do to empower school employees is elect a governor who’s not beholden to the DeVos family,” she said, “a governor who understands how critical the educator’s voice is in creating the best policies around our schools.” 




Whitmer Education Plan: Get it Done

The education plan outlined by Gretchen Whitmer, Get It Done: Better Schools Now for Michigan Students, is built around four themes. To view the full plan, visit

Quality education from cradle to career

Paths to prosperity with a highly educated workforce

Respect for educators

Stabilizing school funding and improving accountability

 Phase in universal preschool for four-year-olds

 Provide more school counselors to help students explore careers

 Triple the number of literacy coaches in schools

 Invest in skills and technical trades and job training programs

 Support rigorous and practical teacher preparation programs

 Fix the one-size-fits-all funding system

 Add more psychologists, social workers, nurses, security, healthy meals and safe transportation

 End over-testing through alternative options and federal flexibility

 Improve compensation and working conditions

 Restore the School Aid Fund to its constitutional purpose

 Invest in wrap-around services through partnerships

 Renew investment in extra-curriculars and electives

 Improve professional development offerings and flexibility

 Implement transparency and accountability standards for all schools

 Ban guns in schools, except for law enforcement professionals

 Create the MI Opportunity Scholarship to provide two years of debt-free college or other post-secondary training

 Allow more opportunities for teacher collaboration

 Require all schools to hire state certified teachers and accept all students  Stop the expansion of for-profit charter schools

Much like Michigan’s roads, the state’s once-proud education system has been neglected over the past eight years as lawmakers pursued the Betsy DeVos agenda despite pleas from school professionals, says Gretchen Whitmer, MEA’s recommended candidate in the governor’s race. That will change if she’s elected, Whitmer pledged at a press conference outlining her education plan—“Get It Done: Better Schools Now for Michigan Students”—to invest in public schools, support and respect educators, and expand opportunity for every child in the state. Her plan will end the “hyperfocus” on standardized testing pushed by DeVos and her allies and encourage schools to focus on project-based learning and other approaches to build creativity and problem-solving skills that will take students into a career. “When it comes to education, the first question and the last question that 24  JULY 2018

any policy maker, any budget writer, any legislator should be asking is how are the children of our state doing?” Whitmer said. “That should drive every decision.”

our attorney general and governor say in court,” she said, referring to Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette’s response to a lawsuit arguing the state has failed its neediest students. “I believe every child has a birthright to a solid education,” Whitmer said. Months before unveiling her plan, Whitmer sought input and ideas from educators. As governor, she will continue that approach with a Governor’s Educator Advisory Commission of frontline school employees to advise on pending laws and assist in implementing needed reforms.

Whitmer’s comprehensive blueprint would move Michigan toward universal preschool for four-year-olds, develop wrap-around services in schools through community partnerships, and triple the number of literacy coaches in schools—focusing on support instead of punitive measures such as third grade retention.

Whitmer also vowed to improve pay for educators who have endured several years of falling and stagnant wages.

“Right now the philosophy at the Capitol seems to be there’s no constitutional right to literacy—that’s what

“It’s time for us to respect our educators,” she said. “If you have dedicated your life to the education of our kids,

and gone through the training it takes to get the degree, then you should be treated like the professional and critical person that you are.

on standardized tests; and fixing our broken school funding system.

“That begins with saying we’re not going to simply impose the will of people without expertise at the Capitol to determine what happens in the classroom. The people on the frontlines will drive the policy that happens in this state.”

Whitmer’s plan shifts to a weighted funding formula based on the fact that different students have different needs, which in turn have different costs to educate. At the same time, she plans to stop lawmakers from taking hundreds of millions of dollars away from the School Aid Fund to cover other parts of the budget.

MEA President Paula Herbart said Whitmer is following through on her promise to listen to and address the concerns of educators and support staff. “Three clear themes emerged from the input we received from about 1,000 members across the state—and all three are addressed directly in Gretchen’s plan,” Herbart said.

“We are underfunding the education of all of our children right now because of the continuous raids on the School Aid Fund,” she said. “If we are going to get our house in order here in Michigan and make this the place our kids stay and others come to for opportunity, we’ve got to fix the continuous assault on education funding in our state.”

Those three themes included respect for educators; reducing over-emphasis

She will also push for strong transparency and accountability measures for all schools, including for-profit-operat-

ed charter schools and their management companies, and she would stop expansion of for-profit charter schools. From greater respect for the profession to ensuring schools foster the workforce of the 21st Century, "This plan addresses so many needs we hear from front-line educators,” MEA’s Herbart said. “Our members are motivated, energized, and ready to work with Gretchen to make this education plan a reality so we can build a better Michigan for everyone. Let's get it done." Adults need to lead on education for the children who depend on us, Whitmer concluded. “That’s what this election is all about,” she said. “We’re going to make education a priority, and we’re going to start getting it right for a change.” 




Why We Support Gretchen Whitmer

MEA members drive political recommendation process When MEA recommends a candidate for election, who makes that decision? Members like you. MEA’s Screening & Recommendation (S&R) process places control of MEA political recommendations in the hands of MEA members across the state from diverse backgrounds and roles within the public education community. The process is governed by the MEA Political Action Committee (MEA-PAC) Council, made up of local delegates from MEA’s 60-plus coordinating councils.

Utica High School Spanish teacher Julie Wright is “sick and tired” of the erosion of public education in recent years. She sees hope for a better future in Gretchen Whitmer, and it’s not just wishful thinking. Wright recalls seeing the Democratic candidate for governor in action back in December 2012, when the Republican-dominated state Legislature was ramming through so-called “Right to Work” legislation despite thousands of workers shouting opposition from the Capitol lawn. As the minority leader in the Senate, Whitmer led her Democratic colleagues out of the chamber and into the crowds protesting outside. “Back then I knew she was a fighter, and she’ll fight for us now,” Wright said. Educators are rallying around Whitmer, the candidate who has said she will be the education governor. The former prosecutor and state Senate leader was unanimously selected for recommendation by MEA’s Statewide Screening and Recommendations Committee. The Michigan primary election is Aug. 7. “Gretchen Whitmer is all about public education, and she’s the right person to carry that message straight to

26  JULY 2018

the Capitol,” said Theresa Dudley, a school secretary in Grand Rapids. Melissa Wriggelsworth (above, left), a fourth-grade teacher in Lansing, appeared at a June press conference where Whitmer unveiled her education plan to publicly explain her support for a candidate who pledges to listen to and respect educators. Teachers “find a way” to educate kids despite roadblocks, Wriggelsworth said, explaining that she and many others spend time helping kids during lunch and after school. Educators take time away from their own families on weekends designing engaging lessons and grading work. They spend hundreds of dollars out of pocket outfitting classrooms and buying supplies for activities and projects. “We always find a way,” she said. “And I understand Gretchen Whitmer to be a person who will ask us questions so policymakers know what we do and what we need.” Students increasingly come to school feeling anxious, depressed, tired,

worried, and hungry, added Wriggelsworth’s colleague, Spanish immersion teacher Susie Hernandez. Challenging circumstances at home often interfere with learning, she said. “Unfortunately, many students struggle to make it to graduation and beyond high school,” Hernandez said. “We need to support all of our students, and Gretchen Whitmer has a plan to provide students with the support they need.” Southfield teacher Simone Babridge (above, right) met Whitmer at a meet-and-greet event in Macomb County months ago, long before the governor’s race began heating up. “Given the experience we’ve had with (Governor) Rick Snyder, I was more than willing to give Gretchen a try,” she said. Babridge was impressed with Whitmer’s understanding of education and her commitment to “stand up for those who make other professions possible—educators. After the cutbacks and right-to-work, we need a governor who’s going to fund education and seek the fruits of investing in our kids. “I’m supporting Gretchen.” 

Recommendation decisions are based on candidate responses to questionnaires and interviews regarding education and labor issues only. Candidates

from both major parties are invited to participate in all interviews. The S&R process for legislative districts is controlled at the local level, where interviews and recommendation votes are taken by MEA members from those jurisdictions serving on local S&R Committees. Recommendations at the state level are made by the Statewide S&R Committee, which is composed of members from various parts of the state— including all four MEA zones—and job classifications, including teachers, education support professionals, higher education faculty and staff, and school retirees.

In this year’s critical gubernatorial race, after interviewing candidates from both parties, the committee voted unanimously for MEA to recommend Gretchen Whitmer to our members in the governor’s race. In the months leading up to that decision, MEA made an unprecedented effort to ensure our members’ voices were part of this process, inviting candidates for governor—both Republicans and Democrats—to speak to members in a variety of different venues, including remarks to the Representative Assembly and a statewide conference call. At every step of the way, our members’ preference for and feedback about Whitmer was far and away the strongest of all the candidates. 

Congressional candidates deserve support in August primary Up and down the ballot, there are friends of public education running for office who have earned the support of public school employees. Centered in Oakland County, there are two congressional races where friends of public education are running in competitive seats. Elissa Slotkin is our recommended candidate in the 8th Congressional District, which includes northern Oakland County plus Livingston and Ingham Counties—this has become one of the top races in the country, being considered a bellweather race against incumbent Congressman Mike Bishop.

Running from Oakland through Western Wayne Counties, the 11th Congressional district is open due to Congressman David Trott’s retirement. Our local members recommend Tim Greimel, a current state representative and former House Democratic Leader who has been a longtime friend of MEA and public education. In Northern Michigan, Matt Morgan earned MEA’s recommendation in the 1st Congressional District. Due to an issue with his petitions, he’s forced to run a write-in campaign in August in which he needs our members across the Upper Peninsula and Northern

Lower Michigan to write in his name on the Aug. 7 ballot. Other congressional recommendations include Rob Davidson in the 2nd, Gretchen Driskell in the 7th and Rashida Tlaib in the 13th, as well as continuing recommendations for incumbent members of Congress Dan Kildee in the 5th, Debbie Dingell in the 12th and Brenda Lawrence in the 14th. Although they don’t have primary elections, MEA has recommended Senator Debbie Stabenow for re-election to the U.S. Senate, as well as Jocelyn Benson and Dana Nessel as Michigan’s new Secretary of State and Attorney General, respectively.  MEA VOICE  27



Help these friends of public education win on August 7! Governor


1 2 3 4 5 6 8 9 10 11 16 17 18 20 22 23 25 28 30 31 32 34 44 48 50 51 52 53 54 55 57 62 63 81 92 101

Gretchen Whitmer

U.S. Senate

*Debbie Stabenow

Attorney General

Dana Nessel

Secretary of State

Jocelyn Benson

U.S. House 1 2 5 7 8 11 12 13 14

Matt Morgan Rob Davidson *Dan Kildee Gretchen Driskell Elissa Slotkin Tim Greimel *Debbie Dingell Rashida Tlaib (inc. partial term) *Brenda Lawrence

Senate 1 2 3 4 5 6 9 10 11 14 17 18 27 29

Stephanie Chang Adam Hollier (inc. partial term) Sylvia Santana Fred Durhal *David Knezek Robert Kosowski Paul Wojno Henry Yanez Jeremy Moss Renee Watson Bill LaVoy Jeff Irwin *Jim Ananich Winnie Brinks

* incumbent

28  JULY 2018

*Tenisha Yancey Carla Tinsley-Smith *Wendell Byrd Isaac Robinson Mark Payne Aghogho Edevbie *Sherry Gay-Dagnogo Gary Pollard *Leslie Love *Jewell Jones Bill Johnson Michelle LaVoy *Kevin Hertel Matt Koleszar *John Chirkun *Darrin Camilleri Nate Shannon *Patrick Green Wisam Naoum *William Sowerby Paul Manley *Sheldon Neeley Laura Dodd Sheryl Kennedy *Tim Sneller David Lossing *Donna Lasinski *Yousef Rabhi *Ronnie Peterson Rebekah Warren Amber Pedersen Bill Haadsma Jennifer Aniano Joshua Rivard *Terry Sabo Kathy Wiejaczka

Please note: If a recommendation is missing for a race in your area, the local MEA Screening & Recommendation Committee likely chose not to make a primary recommendation or did not take action on that race prior to this magazine being sent to print in late June. For updates, local races and how to find your polling place for the August 7 primary election, visit MEA.YourVoter.Guide

Victory in 2018— What will you do to help? Know Where & When To Vote Need to check your voter registration (or someone in your home), find your polling place, see what’s on your August ballot, or request an absentee ballot? You can do all that and more at If you don’t think you’ll be around on Aug. 7 to vote in-person, make sure to request your absentee ballot right away—you can use the form on page 30.

Contribute to PAC At, you can contribute to MEA-PAC and the NEA Fund for Children & Public Education. These political action committees make contributions to candidates who are pro-public education at the federal, state and local levels. Dues money cannot be given to political candidates—only your voluntary PAC contributions can help these friends of public education be successful in their elections!

Need an absentee ballot? Going to be out of town for the primary on Aug. 7? Apply now for an absentee ballot to make sure your vote counts for Gretchen Whitmer and other friends of public education

INSTRUCTIONS FOR APPLICANTS FOR ABSENT VOTER BALLOTS Step 1. After completely filling out the application, sign and date the application in the place designated. Your signature must appear on the application or you will not receive an absent voter ballot. Step 2. Deliver the application by one of the following methods to your local clerk’s office (which you can find at

Get Involved Friends of public education need your support talking to voters about why they’re the right choice for our students and our communities. As school employees, you’re a trusted messenger with voters—use that power to volunteer with a campaign and help to Get Out the Vote! There are also opportunities to help in talking to MEA members through virtual phone banks—where you can make calls from your home to fellow members—and serving on local MEA Screening & Recommendation committees to interview candidates. Find out how you can help by emailing us at, calling MEA Public Affairs at 517-337-5508, or contacting your local UniServ office.

Vote for Friends of Public Education At every level of government, MEA members like you have screened and recommended candidates who— based on their stances on education and labor issues—have earned school employees’ votes. Go online to MEA.YourVoter.Guide to find all the recommended candidates for your area, including important school board races and local millage elections.

(a) Place the application in an envelope addressed to the appropriate clerk and place the necessary postage upon the return envelope and deposit it in the United States mail or with another public postal service, express mail service, parcel post service, or common carrier. (b) Deliver the application personally to the office of the clerk, to the clerk, or to an authorized assistant of the clerk. (c) In either (a) or (b), a member of the immediate family of the voter including a father-in-law, mother-in-law, brotherin-law, sister-inlaw, son-in-law, daughter-in law, grandparent, or grandchild or a person residing in the voter’s household may mail or deliver the application to the clerk for the applicant. (d) In the event an applicant cannot return the application in any of the above methods, the applicant may select any registered elector to return the application. The person returning the application must sign and return the certificate at the bottom of the application.


MI Absent Voter Ballot Application–Aug. 7 Primary and/or Nov. 6 General


I am a United States citizen and a qualified and registered elector of the County and jurisdiction in the State of Michigan listed below, and I apply for an official ballot, to be voted by me at the above indicated election.

Applicant Registration Information: First Name

1 Complete


Street Address

Last Name



County City Township Jurisdiction


Precinct #

Year of Birth (Optional)

Select election(s) (required):  August 7, 2018 State Primary  November 6, 2018 General Election


Check Check

The reason for my request is (you must provide a reason for each election selected above):


Sign Sign

November 6

August 7



 I am 60 years of age or older.  I expect to be absent from the community in which I am registered for the entire time the polls are open on election day.  I am physically unable to attend the polls without the assistance of another.  I cannot attend the polls because of the tenets of my religion.  I have been appointed an election precinct inspector in a precinct other than the precinct where I reside.  I cannot attend the polls because I am confined to jail awaiting arraignment or trial.

     

I certify that I am a United States citizen and that the statements in this absent voter ballot application are true.


/ /



WARNING: You must be a United States citizen to vote. If you are not a United States citizen, you will not be issued an absent voter ballot. A person making a false statement in this absent voter ballot application is guilty of a misdemeanor. It is a violation of Michigan election law for a person other than those listed in the instructions to return, offer to return, agree to return, or solicit to return your absent voter ballot application to the clerk. An assistant authorized by the clerk who receives absent voter ballot applications at a location other than the clerk’s office must have credentials signed by the clerk. Ask to see his or her credentials before entrusting your application with a person claiming to have the clerk’s authorization to return your application.

Return this application to your local clerk. Find your clerk at

Additional Information:

Complete only if you want your ballot sent to a temporary address: Date leaving for temporary address:



Temporary Address




Contact Info for Questions Email Address

Date of return:


NOTE: Absentee ballots will not be forwarded by USPS.

Other Other

Complete only if assisting a voter with return of the application

Wd/Pct Filed 30  JULY 2018



Certificate of Authorized Registered Elector Returning Absent Voter Ballot Application: I certify that my name is ____________________________________________, date of birth is ____/____/____ and my address is _________________________________________________________; that I am delivering the absent voter ballot application of _________________________________________ at his or her request; that I did not solicit or request to return the application; that I have not made any markings on the application; that I have not altered the application in any way; that I have not influenced the application; and that I am aware that a false statement in this certificate is a violation of Michigan election law.

X_______________________________________ ____/____/____ Signature of person assisting the voter


Clerk’s Use Only


Phone #


Mailed Ballot No.



Returned Clerk




Higher Ed Members Encourage Informed Decisions about College Choices MEA and MEA-Higher Education Board member Eva Menefee has been advising college students for more than three decades. She and others want union members and their families interested in signing up for MEA’s new free college program to be fully informed about their choices. Don’t let the word “free” lure you in too quickly, Menefee says. Consider alternatives before jumping into any college opportunity. That means educating yourself, she says. “I always tell people to read the fine print, but sometimes it’s written in invisible ink,” the Lansing Community College (LCC) lead academic advisor said. “Down the road you could be paying a bigger price than you need to.” Menefee and others worry about issues that could trip up uninformed MEA members who sign up for the new member benefit—including credit transferability, financial aid limits, and online course and degree completion rates. At its April meeting, the MEA Representative Assembly passed New Business Items calling for MEA to communicate about these issues with members. “Students don’t know what they don’t know,” Menefee said. MEA’s program is run by an Ohio college with an out-of-state per-credit cost of $225, while Michigan community colleges cost about $100 per hour for in-state students. Does cost matter in a free program?

Program participants must use all federal financial aid they qualify for, and Ohio’s Eastern Gateway Community College fills any gap. Books are free. However, many people don’t realize that federal financial aid has lifetime limits both in terms of time and dollar amounts—meaning once a student uses up eligibility, that source of funding is gone, whether a student completed a degree or achieved a desirable outcome or not. “People need to think about not just getting started but finishing,” said Curlada Eure-Harris, a licensed professional counselor at LCC. “That means sitting down often enough with an academic advisor to do the work and plot out two years or four years.” Students who attend college locally benefit from ongoing face-to-face advising. Academic advisors help students identify curricular majors to fit their interests, set completion goals, chart a path, and stay on track. That’s not even to mention free tutoring at student help centers. “Students who take on this opportunity to go to college need to make sure they have the network of support to help them be successful,” Menefee said.

Another issue involves students who join the free college program and want to transfer later to a community college or four-year university in Michigan. Credits that don’t transfer from Ohio, or don’t meet degree requirements for the major, would cost students additional money and time. “If you’re not careful, you can end up having to take another whole year of classes,” said Matt Dunckel, a faculty member at Alpena Community College. All in-state public colleges and universities adhere to the Michigan Transfer Agreement, which was legislated in Michigan to guarantee transferability of general education courses between participating schools. Finally, students should ask if online classes are right for them. Virtual-only classes have lower completion rates, which isn’t to say no one should take advantage of the free college offer, Eure-Harris said: “My concern is that free college is more complex than it sounds and people need more help to understand the best choice for them.” She advises prospective students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) so each higher-ed institution can determine how the federal aid offer will cover its tuition and fees. Then make an appointment at a desired college to talk with an advisor in person. 


MESSA members and their dependents are eligible to participate in MESSA’s Cardiovascular Case Management Program. To get started, call 800.336.0022 and select prompt 3. 

MEA Communications Wins National Awards The MEA Public Affairs Department received national recognition at the 2018 State Education Association Communicators Awards. Awards include: Award of Distinction for Best Photography Miriam Garcia for A Day in the Life of Brittney and Zack Award of Excellence for Best Video (externally produced) MEA for Why Education Support Professionals Matter Award of Distinction for Best Use of Social Media Rachel Beyer for MEA Social Media Channels Award of Excellence for Best Editorial Layout Shantell Coats Crispin for Flint Teacher Finds ‘Bigger Purpose’ in Water Crisis


t Ross Wilson MESSA Executive Director


And if you’ve already suffered a heart attack or stroke, Cathy will show you how to access specific MESSA benefits, such as cardiac rehabilitation, that can dramatically reduce your risk of suffering another attack.

Browse websites of your favorite retailers, including apparel, electronics, movie tickets and much more


Through MESSA’s free Cardiovascular Case Management program, Cathy can work with you to develop a personal heart health action plan, including strategies you can use to make better lifestyle choices. You’ll learn how to identify and track your key health risk numbers, including blood pressure, blood sugar, and good and bad cholesterol, with an eye toward risk reduction.

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Enjoy exclusive member deals on your favorite items and brands


One of our registered nurses, Cathy Scott-Lynch, helps members and dependents who have experienced a cardiovascular incident or who are at risk of a heart attack or stroke.


Earn WOWPoints to use towards future purchases


I’m proud of the exceptional service MESSA provides hardworking education employees and their families. I’m especially appreciative of the work performed by our team of nurses who serve members and their dependents with serious illnesses and conditions.


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Free MESSA program helps you improve your heart health

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NEA Members have saved more than $12,010,000 using NEA Click & Save. Start shopping today!

Award of Distinction for Best Graphic Design Rachel Beyer for MEA Graphics and Branding Award of Excellence for Opinion/Editorial Writing David Crim for Clueless Betsy DeVos Award of Distinction for Investigative/Analytical Reporting Brenda Ortega for Digital Literacy in the Fake News Age Award of Excellence for Best Constituent Newsletter Brenda Ortega for Capitol Comments Best in Show—Visual MEA for Why Education Support Professionals Matter Public Relations Person of the Year Doug Pratt 

Our ad policy, rates and schedule can be found online at The classifieds deadline for the October 2018 issue is Sept. 1.

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A longtime teacher, now principal of Geisler Middle School in Walled Lake, MEA-Retired member Sheryl Kennedy is among several Michigan educators stepping up to run for political office this year. Where did you grow up? I grew up in Davison which is the district that I’m running for state representative in. When I grew up it was mostly blue-collar UAW; everyone worked for General Motors in some way. I taught in that community for 10 years. Now our schools face 40 to 60 percent free and reduced lunch, so the struggle is what can we do to mediate the effects of parents working two or three jobs at minimum wage to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads? Why did you become a principal? My PhD was focused on how teachers persist through challenges, specifically using professional learning communities. I came here to do that work, to build the capacity of teachers for the purpose of closing the achievement gap and turning the school around. I’ve got the hardest working teachers in the district. I love my teachers. We just had our data day and we did—together we turned the school around. Now we outperform the expected growth for the State of Michigan in all subcategories. And I just practiced what I knew: If you get teachers together and give them opportunities to learn from each other, great things happen. Have you always been interested in politics? I was a building rep for MEA and eventually I was grievance chair and vice president in negotiations. I don’t think you can do union work and not be interested in politics, because you’re more aware of both good and poor policy. I’ve volunteered for campaigns going back to the mid-90s. Always worked for those pro-education people. Knocked on doors, made the phone calls. I also lobbied our legislators, both as an MEA member and now as a MASA and MASSP member, so when educational legislation is coming up, I know my legislators by name and they know me. Why did you decide to run for the state House? Our building is so diverse—we have over 30 languages represented, a number of different faiths, and a lot of poverty. What I have seen in my building is a fear and anxiety that hadn’t previously existed. At the same time, I’m seeing the best teachers burning out, exhausted, walking away. The teachers that my own kids had growing up, I see them at the store and they’ve got a different shirt on with a different logo. The best math teacher ever, I’m like, “Oh. Did you get a second job?” Answer—“Nope. I walked away from teaching.” I love this profession so much. It is what I have given my entire life to. I just believe desperately there needs to be someone with a voice at the table who has walked the walk and can speak a little bit of reason when non-educators are coming up with well-intentioned really awful policies. Did you ever imagine yourself as a candidate? No. I’m not going into politics because it’s the next step for me or because I’m looking to increase my salary or because I’m looking for anything other than the opportunity to serve and lead. I’ve spent my whole life in one capacity or another serving and leading. What is your platform beyond education? Education is what drives me, but as important is jobs and protecting labor rights. In my mind, labor rights are civil rights. The best way that I can support my community is by protecting the rights of labor. We were a labor community to begin with, and when our community began to fail is when labor began to be destroyed at the policy level. I believe that if I can focus on those two things, it will have an exponential impact and a generational impact on my community. 

34  JULY 2018

It’s good to have options. MESSA has launched several new plan options designed to reduce the amount of money that comes out of your paycheck for health insurance — while keeping the largest doctor network in Michigan and providing the legendary member service MESSA is known for. No matter your bargaining unit’s circumstances, there’s a MESSA health plan that will work for you.

MEA Voice Magazine - July 2018 Issue  

The MEA Voice Magazine is an official publication of the Michigan Education Association.

MEA Voice Magazine - July 2018 Issue  

The MEA Voice Magazine is an official publication of the Michigan Education Association.