Some educators are inspired to join the profession by teachers in their lives who inspired them. Some joined the field because they always knew they wanted to work with students. For Kate Snyder, it was fate, when she started as a substitute teacher and fell in love with the job that became her career.
“I get to work with kids and we get to talk about things that have meaning to them. Creating authentic relationships where kids feel okay to share what they don’t know, what they know, I can share what I know and what I don’t know. It’s this wonderful place to be where both your students and you are learning new stuff every day” said Snyder, who runs the Project-Based Learning Program at Mary Moss at J. Albert Adams Academy. Her philosophy on teaching is: “If we don’t laugh at least once during a class period, that’s an unsuccessful day.”
From early in her career, Snyder saw the power of TAAAC to advocate for what was right.
“I’m well aware of every single aspect of what we do, the government has their fingers in it. If it’s from the local county government to the federal level, if we’re not aware of what our politicians’ beliefs and stances are, we can’t fight for what we know our students need and what we as educators need,” said Snyder, who now serves as Vice President of TAAAC. During Janet Owens’ term as County Executive for Anne Arundel County, she was part of a group of educators who refused to sign the negotiated agreement when the Owens office proposed a budget that did not fulfill her campaign promise of a raise.
“Being part of that moment, I was like, I have to do this. If I’m going to be an educator, then I’m also going to fight for other educators,” said Snyder. Now on the negotiations team, she wants other members to be able to stand up for their rights and know when it’s okay to say no.
“Quality of life is an important thing. This is our job, even though we’re educators and we identify as teachers, I’m also a mom, a grandmom, a daughter, and an aunt. That’s what’s important. I fight because education is important to all those aspects of my life,” said Snyder.
As a member of the negotiations team, Snyder wants more educators to see their power when they work together. She says, “We can’t overcome poverty, racism, or bias if we don’t have educators who feel empowered to teach society what society needs to be taught.”
Ensuring educators have the authority and respect to teach, Snyder says will allow us to “treat humans as humans” rather than simply the differences between us. Throughout various leadership positions within TAAAC, including as a member of the Government Relations Committee, taking action to fight against laws that prevent educators from teaching various topics has been a focal point for Snyder.
“We don’t answer questions anymore. We ask more questions. That’s what a good educator does,” said Snyder, who wants the public to know what education looks like in classrooms today. She says education requires building authentic relationships, inspiring inquisitive students, and helping kids see mistakes as a first try instead of a failure.
The same goes for building relationships with the community and elected leaders, says Snyder. She has seen through advocating for her students at Moss Adams, that helping those who are outside the classroom see the needs of our students, and how we can address them collectively, is the only way we can create the world-class public education system our students deserve.
“Be okay with me knowing who my students are, and give educators the opportunity to use our professional knowledge in decision making in knowing what’s right for our students,” said Snyder. Recently, she spoke up about the need to change the technology used for MCAP tests which did not allow students to skip a question and come back later – a method of test taking that often leads to better grades.
But even if you’re not ready to speak up at every board meeting or join the Board of Directors, Snyder says there is a place for every Unit 1 educator in TAAAC.
“If you are a government nerd like me, let’s go lobby! If you’re a creative person, we should get you on the IPD committee to be thoughtful and inventive. Maybe you’re a logistical organizer so the special events committee is perfect. We’ve got you covered,” said Snyder. When you are new to the profession and the county, new educators can see the union as a place to ensure their rights are being protected, and find their interests with other educators. She continued, “The Union isn’t just about protecting teachers, the union is about a community of educators. Whatever your passion or unique talent is, it can be used to fight for other educators.”
This week, as Snyder and the bargaining team prepare to go back to the negotiations table on May 23, TAAAC members are attending the Board of Education meeting on May 18. Click here to send an email to Board members.