By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President
“The teachers in Marshfield have a commitment and a passion for doing what’s best for students,” Linda Lang, Speech Pathologist and Building Representative from Washington Elementary, told me. “And, when your local wants what’s best for students and is organized in its efforts, it’s possible to make positive change to help everyone.”
Linda’s comments hold true to many of the successes this local has been able to achieve, including the development of a supply closet for students in need, coordinated by High School English Teacher and Marshfield Teachers’ Association Secretary Stacy Lavongsa.
“This was a collaborative effort among the Marshfield Teachers’ Association, administration, our students, and the community. Already this year, students in need are being helped with clothing and personal care items with absolute discretion. And through their work, last year’s high school seniors have touched the lives of many through their efforts,” Stacy told me.
In terms of strength, the Marshfield Teachers’ Association has a membership level that hovers right around eighty percent, which continues to be their membership goal. As President Kathleen Mahoney says, “This year, we have replaced each retiree or member who resigned with a new member to the MTA, and we aren’t finished recruiting yet as we are continuing to invite our colleagues to join us through follow-up conversations.”
Don Lang, Past President of the Marshfield Teachers’ Association and High School Math Teacher, mentioned the success in negotiations, noting the role that the MTA played in creating its alternative compensation model and continued predictable salary increases for teachers.
“Our strength also stems from a history of leadership like Vickie Clark, Julie Bratina, Gwen Sisson, Pam Weiss, and Mary Kelly. We have carried on the tradition of maintaining strong leaders,” Don said.
The MTA is actively involved in seeking out and attending trainings offered by WEAC Region 2, WEAC, and the National Education Association. As Kathleen Mahoney, current MTA President, said, “These training opportunities keep us connected, make us stronger, and offer new leaders support and connections across the state and country. The Marshfield Teachers’ Association stays strong because, as leaders, we are trained and engaged.”
When the state climate shifted a few years back, MTA leaders decided to focus their efforts on local issues. According to Don, “We have worked to elect education-friendly school board members because the decisions made by our local school board affect each one of our students and our members.” Don pointed out that talking with community members and parents about the needs of their schools takes time and isn’t always easy work, but it is critically important in making schools better for their students.
Don said, “We approach our school board members, our administrators, and we are involved in our community on issues important to our schools and our profession. The MTA wants to be a part of the solution to the struggles that we are currently facing.” When the community, parents, and the school board are connected closely with educators in the schools, partnerships that are good for students are created.
An overall theme of the advocacy of the MTA can be heard in Linda’s words, “Being in a union doesn’t mean asking for the world, it means looking out for each other and the betterment of your students and one another.”
Read all of Peggy’s ‘Spotlight On Locals’ columns at weac.org/Spotlight.