The student news site of Lincoln-Way East High School

The Winged Messenger

The student news site of Lincoln-Way East High School

The Winged Messenger

The student news site of Lincoln-Way East High School

The Winged Messenger

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April 25, 2024

Joining the Union Train-My Experience with the IEA-NEA


On October 21st, 2023, I had the opportunity to attend a fall retreat held by the Illinois Education Association. I had an extremely unforgettable experience that I would love to share!

Arrival – 8:40 AM

I had arrived at the Fall Retreat, which was hosted in Naperville, at around 8:35 AM. I sat in my car for a few minutes, and then headed inside at 8:40 AM. As soon as I entered, I was warmly welcomed by Madi Houser, who is Chairperson of Aspiring Educators. I got a nametag and was offered varying free gear from Aspiring Educators. I picked up all sorts of good stuff, such as pins, shirts, sweatpants, pens, pencils, an umbrella, and more goodies. I also got to learn about the IEA Retired Mentor Program, which would provide me with a retired educator that I could contact as many or as little times as I want for advice, or just to sit down with. I signed up for that. Afterward, I finally sat down. I took pictures of all my stuff and awaited the session to start.


Welcome – 9:00 AM


When it started, every introduced themselves. I met the executive team for Aspiring Ed, a few people in the background, and I also learned a bit about themselves. Afterwards, they started with an icebreaker, where they gave us a shoe with spots where we could label facts about ourselves. For example, the bottom of the shoe had us write about our hobbies, a fun fact about ourselves, and why we had gone to the retreat. We then showed off our shoes and introduced ourselves one-by-one to each other.


First Learning Session – 9:30-10:30AM


The first learning session introduced the Illinois Education Association and the Aspiring Educators. They discussed about the levels of the Union, From the NEA (National Education Association) to the local level. The Session then taught us about the values of RedForEd.


Second Learning Session – 10:30-11:30AM


The second session talked about the Funds of Knowledge through both direct learning and through a reading that we collectively completed. It was cool to learn about and be able to see how we could implement this in our future classrooms. At the end, we did an activity where we correlated an item to one of the Funds of Knowledge we learned about.


Lunch – 11:30AM-12:10PM


Lunch was AMAZING. They had ordered catering which had sandwiches and sweets, as well as getting us all drinks and chips. They were all extremely good. Since I got to chill by myself for a little bit, I got some time to take in and think about what we learned about in the second session.


Intermediate/Greeting Session – 12:10PM-12:30PM


During this time, we met Gina Harris, the Secretary-Treasurer of the IEA. One of the things she mentioned that stuck with me is the fact she said to keep a ‘brag-list’ of stuff we can brag about to people. I also got a shout-out during this time as well because of the fact I am in High School and already passionate about education and the union! It made me feel ecstatic, but most of all, proud of myself considering I am doing something extraordinary for my age. I also felt extremely welcomed as I never have before.


Learning Session 3 – 12:30-1:30PM


During this session, we learned about some programs that the IEA is doing alongside Aspiring Ed and some policies that the IEA are interested in supporting. Afterward, we met Benjamin Baer, who is an NEA Director from Region 44. He did his own presentation and discussed lobbying. It was so cool to be able to listen to him and take notes on what he said.


After this, they provided varying updates that the IEA and AE are up to as of late.


The End – 1:30-2:00PM


After it ended, I met with varying people at the event and got pictures with. I took pictures with Lindsey Jensen, who is director of the early careers committee, Ben Baer, and Gina Harris. They were all extremely impressed with me, which I remain proud of.




I have never felt so welcomed and so excited about an event in my life! I felt welcomed, loved, and most of all – included. It made me even more sure of what I was doing with the Union and that my work was appreciated. As I go through my internship class and get more involved with the union, it has also shown me that this really is my passion and that I want to keep doing this with my life. After the event, I also got contact information for many good people! I remain excited to do this and keep going. If there was one take away from this event, it’s this – That I am destined to do this and that the opportunities don’t ever escape me! I can’t wait to do more as I continue down my path.

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