As the Social Studies Department Chair at Brooklyn Park Middle, Heather Kerlavage sees connections between today and the lessons she teaches her students.
“More people are seeing the need for unions and the unionizing efforts that are going on around the country. Any time a Starbucks unionizes, that’s more power that we all have,” said Kerlavage, who grew up in a union house, where both of her parents instilled the importance of union work and “who’s going to have your back.”
Today, as a member of the TAAAC Board of Directors, she sees the work of union members as essential to the education profession, both for educators and for her students.
“It’s important that we’re advocating for teachers. For example, teachers aren’t having to cover without being paid. Teachers actually getting time to plan, and build great lessons for their students, and have that time to really reflect on the work that the students are producing to not have kids falling through the cracks. All of that really does come down to time and money which is what us as union members can advocate for,” said Kerlavage, who has also been a Building Rep at Brooklyn Park Middle and Chesapeake Bay Middle.
During Educator Appreciation Week, Kerlavage thinks it’s important for educators to make their voices heard, both in their buildings, and in public spaces.
“There’s this perception that educators are just supposed to set themselves on fire to keep others warm. We know that’s why there’s burnout and why so many people leave the profession. That is not good for our students,” said Kerlavage. In the post-COVID world, she says that there is a “requirement for flexibility” more than ever before in the profession that most people don’t know about.
Being part of the union, fellow members can help each other out to prevent that burnout, and advocate for each other. As a union leader, Kerlavage says it’s most important to know your contract, and how you can enforce it yourself.
“I feel like the union is a group that can help you figure that out, and the members in your building. They can help you figure out what you need to take home versus what you don’t,” said Kerlavage. Her Faculty Advisory Council, which elects educators to advise principals on issues from schedules to student discipline to collaborative planning, has also helped direct members to decide what they can collectively advocate for resolving issues in their building together.
Watch Kerlavage’s shoutout to her team, and stay tuned for other member profiles throughout the week! If you want to highlight members in your building, click here.