California Educator

October 2012

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San Jose Teacher concerned about working / learning conditions Story and photo by Mike Myslinski IT 'S FAIR TO SAY THAT veteran eighth- grade science teacher and enthusiastic labor activist Kevin Thompson keeps the "union" in Union Middle School, where he works in San Jose. Right now, union work means campaign work, so Thompson joined the ranks of CTA members across the state who are talking about Propositions 30 and 32 right up until Election Day. "Somebody Kevin Thompson has to stand up," Thompson says of why he volunteers. "I am a classroom teacher reaching out to colleagues. CTA staff members can go out and talk to teachers, but it's a lot different when teach- ers talk to teachers. It's a good idea. The mood in the room changes." His teaching roots and dedication run deep. A former Santa Clara County Teacher of the Year, Thompson grew up in and around public education. His par- ents enjoyed long teaching careers — his mother worked for 10 years in his own Union Elementary School District, and his father retired after 38 years in the Mountain View- Los Altos High School District. A past president of the 225-member Union District Educators Association, and the current UDEA bargaining team chairperson, Thompson sees the dam- age from cuts in higher class sizes and staffing reductions. He takes his cam- paign work personally. "I'm a union guy because I believe in what we do, and I believe that we need to be protected," he says. "My working condi- tions are my kids' learning conditions. This fight isn't about more money for me — it's really about a better education for the kids that I teach. The only thing that will get me out of my classroom to volunteer is something as important as No on 32 and Yes on 30." Talk about being committed to the cause! Story by Dina Martin Peggy Colwell (right), a special educa- tion teacher at Foothill High School in Palo Cedro, has been politically involved since she was 10. Although she lives and works in a conservative area, she hasn't run into any problems talking about the election issues with colleagues. "Once people hear the issues, they understand. I haven't spoken to one person who didn't get it," she says. The Shasta Secondary Education Association member was honored for her good work when she received CTA's Ted Bass Teacher-in-Politics Award in 2006. Karen Siegel (left), a retired music teacher in Alturas, has been traveling the highways and byways of Modoc and Sis- kiyou Counties talking to teachers, a handful at a time. They don't always agree with her and the conversations can get lively, but her colleagues appreciate that she takes time to drive a couple hundred miles to reach them. "If I can help any of our teachers to un- derstand the importance of this election and of voting, I'm good with that," she says. Rim of the World: Good food, good conversation, good company RIM OF THE WORLD TEACHERS ASSOCIATION sponsored a back-to-school barbecue where discussions centered on working with like-minded groups, school funding (Prop. 30), the ability to advocate for schools (Prop. 32) and getting out the vote (Nov. 6). Cooking up conversation is Scott Hird, Bear Valley Teachers Association president, and California School Employees Association member Joyce Iliff. October 2012 35

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