There is something in every level of membership that you can do, says Social Studies Department Chair Jill Grimm. Unsurprisingly, department chair is only one of the many hats she wears every day, which is why she believes being active in the union is even more important.
“Even if you didn’t have that extra time because you have elderly parents you have to take care of when you’re off work, or a second job or you’re going to, or night classes or you have a family to take care of. Just wearing a red t-shirt shows that you were supporting your fellow teachers and that was just during your workday,” says Grimm. To those who might wonder if sending an email to a Board of Education member or signing a petition really makes a difference, she says every step helps grow our union.
“It may not feel like a large step to you, but when members of the School Board or the County Council open up their inbox and they have an e-mail not just from you but from 300 other teachers saying move the $110,000 so that we can be made whole, it’ll make a difference,” said Grimm, referring to the win secured by TAAAC members in the last bargaining cycle.
In the spring of 2021, educators sent hundreds of letters to the County Council to fully fund the budget that would resolve the decade-plus inequity. Later in the year, TAAAC members rallied at the Board of Education when the AACPS bargaining team asked educators to work for free. At the conclusion of FY22 negotiations, all educators are now paid at their correct experience step. While they are working an extra evening activity, that time will be returned to them during the school year.
Grimm, who is a member of the bargaining team, knows firsthand, “It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re running for an elected position in the union or you are attending a 10-minute meeting, each piece and step helps the entire body.”
During Educator Appreciation Week, educators across the county are taking the opportunity to highlight what they do in our schools, to show the public how much more they do for our students, peers, and community. Grimm is one of many educators who is also a parent, supports AVID after school, facilitates the National History Day projects, is working toward her National Board Certification, attends weekend events and competitions to support her students, and still finds time to serve on the TAAAC Board of Directors.
When asked why she wanted to take on leadership roles in TAAAC, she says, “For me, it was trying to have a professional wage for teachers. It’s the demand pretty much that you have a Master’s Degree, but you can’t afford the Master’s Degree program based on the salary you’re living at. You have new teachers, they can’t afford to live in the county were working in because the wages compared to the cost of living are not the same.” However, joining the union when she was first hired wasn’t a second thought.
“Teaching the labor movement history was so powerful. My 8th-grade classroom inspired me to get more involved in TAAAC instead of just once a year voting and paying my dues,” said Grimm, who currently teaches 6th and 7th grade at Crofton Middle.
During her tenure on the Board of Directors and on the negotiations team, she has seen the power of educators using their voices together to make a change. At the negotiations table, she says, “It’s exciting because you know that if you’re talking about a concern, it may not be a concern you have, but it’s a concern that impacts members and you can make things better for members.”