Today’s blog comes from a speech I made on August 8th at the 2013-2014 opening meeting for all San Jose Unified employees. I was fortunate to have the chance, along with representatives of the District’s other employee groups, to welcome all 3,200 valued members of the San Jose Unified family.
My name is Jennifer Thomas, and I serve as president of the San José Teachers Association. It is a privilege to represent educators and the values that we share, and I am so glad that I have the opportunity to do it.
SJTA’s mission is to empower our members to educate, inspire, and change lives through public education. Every teacher, counselor, instructional coach, nurse, and speech language pathologist has dedicated him or herself not just to the education of children, but to raising the next generation. It is a quest. A mission. A labor of love.
Fortunately, we are not the only ones to heed this call. The San José Unified School District Board of Trustees sets this path with their unyielding focus on student achievement and commitment to their employees. Our colleagues in the San José Administrators Association as well as the district’s business and service offices on Lenzen Avenue demonstrate this commitment every day, modeling service beyond self.
Of course, the best piece of advice I ever got as a new teacher was to be good to your school secretaries and custodians. Fortunately, that was my natural inclination because the number of times their kindness, flexibility, and patience have helped all of us cannot even be counted. And how about the endless graciousness of the lunchroom workers who feed our students and ourselves? These men and women fuel us for our days, reminding us to eat our vegetables, treating us like family.
I can’t be grateful enough for our media center personnel, our ASB and textbook clerks, parent liaisons and instructional associates, attendance office staff and registrars for making it possible every day for our students to be at school in the first place — and then grow and to appreciate the world around them.
Our psychologists, health aides, and campus supervisors never get enough credit for the work they do keeping students safe and bandaging their wounds- those seen and unseen.
And what about our friends in the mailroom and the trades? Virtually invisible in their efficiency, moving through the district as quickly as possible, fixing, mending, and making our schools beautiful.
SJTA, SJAA, CSEA, AFSCME, Trades, all of us one incredible family, all in the service of this vision of equity, justice, and education of the generations to come.
It is my honor to simply say, “Welcome back,” and “Thank you.” To let you know that your service, your sacrifice, your sense of humor and kindness are appreciated, respected, and not unnoticed.
There is some anxiety in our ranks today. Public education is changing in major ways. If it assuages your anxiety in any way, I will quote that great American poet, Billy Joel, who said, “The good old days weren’t always good, and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.” With a strong collaborative approach that values all experiences and welcomes many perspectives, we will move in the direction that both elevates students and respects those who work for their benefit.
The work now beginning with staff development is a testament to that effort and, while it may feel uncertain, it’s the next step in a journey that will empower us all.