It was 2016 when Allison Heintz truly understood the power educators could have when they stood together. Following the Women’s March, fourth-grade teacher Heintz got more involved with the union to lobby elected officials for better funding for students, like her own niece, which she refers to as her “why”.
“Your ‘why’ is really important. Not only does it drive what you do, but it’s also going to give you a story to share when you talk with other members and politicians,” said Heintz, speaking at a training for TAAAC members in the summer of 2021. Many teachers do the work they do to support the next generation and create life-long learners. The personal connection for Heintz spurred her own advocacy, leading her to take on roles like the chair of the Government Relations Committee, and Board of Director member.
Heintz also has a personal connection to why she became a teacher: the gifted and talented teacher in her elementary school who taught through lung cancer.
“They just showed so much more understanding about me than I thought was possible, and I really connected with them,” says Heintz. She says that her reason for being in the classroom and her willingness to advocate for her peers and students is connected.
“I had teachers who really inspired me to do amazing things, so I hope to be the teacher who does that for others. That’s really where my advocacy goes to,” says Heintz. In particular, to be the best advocate for her students, she wants the public to know how much she and her peers do in addition to teaching.
“Our leaders don’t know if we don’t tell them. They don’t have the same connections to the classroom and to the children that we have,” says Heintz. Recently she advocated with fellow educators to help their Gifted and Talented Coordinators rethink the additional work it takes to complete student portfolios. Now, the district is looking at ways to provide more support for educators and their students.
Through TAAAC, she saw the collective power of educators to speak on behalf of their students to improve the entire school community. She says in working with fellow members and TAAAC staff, “It was just giving me the tools I needed to talk to the administration to make change happen, or to help make our Faculty Council work better. It was less about doing things for me and more about giving me the tools to help my building myself.”
“I think, especially as educators, that we get bogged down in the day to day and forget about the big picture, so I would love to see more members getting involved and standing up for their profession,” says Heintz. She believes that anything TAAAC members care about, is what TAAAC as a whole cares about, from more equitable funding for our students to smaller class sizes to how food gets to our students and their families, and more. She concluded, “Our membership is our union.”