Future teachers network, learn about education issues

Two Trine University students traveled to Washington, DC, for the National Education Association Student Leadership Conference (NEA-SLC), held June 29-July 2.

Mikaela Gerba of Highland, Indiana, a senior, and sophomore Samuel Miller of LaGrange, Indiana, both social studies education majors, participated in the conference, held at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill Hotel.

This was the second time Gerba had attended the conference. She completed a fellowship for the NEA from January to June, during which she made weekly phone calls, organized events and recruited members, and presented findings from her fellowship to a board of peers at the conference.

“My organization had one of the best success rates of the fellowship, so it was really nice to hear positive comments from my peers about my hard work,” she said. “It was a great way to share ideas that were successful and others that were not and discuss how these ideas can be tweaked to become successful.”

Gerba has been a board member of the Student Education Association (SEA) at Trine since her freshman year, and has served as its president since her sophomore year. She was elected vice president of the Indiana Student Education Association board in 2015 and will serve as president for the organization this next year. She credits faculty advisor Amy Alexander, Ed.D., with encouraging her to take leadership in the organization.

“Dr. Alexander is truly the reason I have become some involved with this organization at not only the local level, but at all levels,” she said. “She has given me the courage and confidence to run for every position that I now hold; she was the first to believe in my abilities.”

She said the NEA-SLC gave her the opportunity to continue her leadership training.

“This year I participated in leadership seminars and workshops where I was able to learn valuable information on how to find leaders, create a strong governing body, and how to motivate people to participate in events,” she said.

Those who attended the conference also participated in one of 10 outreach programs designed to benefit the community. Gerba helped create Little Free Libraries for donated books.

Gerba, who plans to teach high school after graduating, said the conference also helped her develop skills for her future career.

Miller became involved with the SEA when he started at Trine in fall 2015. SEA members from across Indiana elected him to represent the state at the NEA-SLC.

During the conference, David Johns, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, served as keynote speaker and hosted a panel of educators and related professionals.

“I learned more about the problems facing our youth — specifically institutional racism — and heard a run-down on the effects of the new Every Student Succeeds Act, which is replacing No Child Left Behind,” he said. “More importantly, I made contacts with fellow aspiring educators and got to discuss our passion and ways to improve not only our local SEA chapter at Trine, but also the Indiana SEA.”

Miller also attended the National Education Association Representative Assembly, a gathering of thousands of education professionals, which included a guest speech by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

“I was able to witness nearly 6,000 members from across the nation bring up their concerns and action plans to help better the education system in America,” Miller said. “As an aspiring educator I was part of the Student Program Caucus, where we took strong stances on certain new business items. This taught me more about the democratic process and certain tips and tricks those who vote use to help get their concerns supported.

“As a social studies education major this opportunity was invaluable in helping me gain first-hand experiences in our nation’s capital that I can take with me into my future classroom.”