By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
The Vaughns - Three generations of union involvement.
They protest together to demand adequate school funding. They hold CTA leadership positions together, working to improve conditions for teachers and students. And they support each other in the classroom, at home and on the campaign trail.
Meet the Vaughns — where teaching and unionism are part of the DNA.
"Becoming a teacher and joining the union was always a ‘given' in our family," explains Carrie Vaughn, an eighth-grade science teacher and member of the Teachers Association of Norwalk-La Mirada. "It was assumed that we would join CTA and that we would be involved."
She has served as her school's site rep for two years, defending the rights of her colleagues, even though she is still a probationary teacher. She attended the 2007 NEA Representative Assembly in Philadelphia, even though she was not a delegate.
Her sister, Christy Marquez, teaches middle school language arts at Hollydale K-8 School and is a member of the Teachers Association of Paramount (TAP). She has been teaching for 10 years and is known for being outspoken about teacher rights at her school.
Mom Kathy Vaughn is also a TAP member, with her classroom right next door to daughter Christy, and previously served as Hollydale's site rep. She has attended several NEA Representative Assemblies as a delegate. Dad is Dan Vaughn, former secretary-treasurer of CTA, who recently became the Santa Clarita UniServ executive director. Dan's brother, Larry Vaughn, is the president of TAP, and his cousin, Ane Miller, is also a TAP member and teaches at Hollydale. Glen Vaughn, father of Dan and Larry, retired from teaching in 1986 after 35 years in the classroom.
"There are no slackers in this family when it comes to activism," says Kathy Vaughn with pride. "Everyone does their share."
That includes sticking up for teacher and student rights in their school communities, throughout the state and at the national level.
"We all went to Sacramento together to protest cuts in education in 2001 and had a blast," recalls Kathy Vaughn, who is working on her doctorate degree at Claremont College. "We took the bus there, and the atmosphere reminded me of the '60s, because we were rabble-rousing for an important cause. And our family went to a CTA protest together in Pershing Square in 2005. Everything went very smoothly at these events because teachers were in charge. But we teachers organize field trips all the time."
Glen Vaughn, 80, attends protests whenever he can. He has become so outraged over cuts to public schools that he has successfully commandeered the microphone away from organizers on more than one occasion — sometimes to rousing applause — making impassioned pleas to save public education.
"Conditions have gotten much more difficult over the last few years in public schools," says Glen Vaughn. "The union fights for the rights of students and for the rights of teachers. The union fights to get rid of No Child Left Behind, which has been a disaster for our schools. And there is going to be more fighting in the future because of the budget crisis. Unfortunately, California is in a lot of trouble."
"I am proud of the fact that we are a teaching family," says Dan Vaughn. "We have public education in our blood and are all working together to make sure that our members — and students — are protected."
Growing up union
Both Carrie and Christy say they initially resisted following in the family footsteps and joining the teaching profession. But destiny and heredity won out.
"I fought the idea in college," says Carrie. "I wanted to make more money. But then I started really reflecting on what I wanted, and realized the only thing that would make me happy was being a teacher."
"I would always say no, I wouldn't become a teacher, even though everybody else in my family was a teacher," relates Christy. "But then somebody asked why, and I didn't know why. Eventually I decided that it was what I always wanted to do. But we were never pressured and our family was very supportive of us." (They have a brother, Phillip, who is a contractor.)
As youngsters, the Vaughn children thought everyone's parents had summers off, and were surprised to learn that was not the case. One of the first Vaughn family vacations was attending the NEA Representative Assembly in Miami — followed by a trip to Disney World.
"I'll never forget being a kid and seeing 10,000 teachers at the RA," says Christy, who is still awed by the memory. "I had never seen so many teachers in my life. It was very powerful, even then."
Both girls say unionism was a frequent discussion topic at the dinner table, which imbued them with a sense of defending teacher and student rights and sticking up for the underdog.
"My parents were always talking about how politicians make rules and set standards, even though they have no experience in the classroom and don't take child development into account," says Christy. "The union allows our voices to be heard and empowers teachers to fight for change."
"I remember my dad was always going to meetings," recalls Carrie. "When I started going, I realized that the union was about like-minded people joining together because they believe in the same cause. CTA offers a sense of community — but it's a progressive community, where the emphasis is on improving public education."
"I have developed really good friendships with people through union networking," Carrie adds. "I know that if I need something, I have many, many people I can turn to and ask for help. It's not just limited to my school or even my district. Heck, I've got people throughout the whole state that can help me."
"I guess in our family, being in the union is just like cereal and milk," says Kathy Vaughn. "You don't think twice about it."
Perspectives differ among the generations
"My dad wasn't particularly involved in his association [TAP], but I remember him saying that being a member of the union is very important," recalls Dan Vaughn, past president of the Downey Education Association. "I think my generation was more active and out there. Seeing the injustices done toward teachers is what has made me the activist I am today."
Carrie Vaughn acknowledges that the younger generation has some catching up to do when it comes to appreciating unionism.
"People in my generation are not as involved as other generations," she observes. "I think it's because people in my generation take for granted what the union does to protect our rights, salaries and health care benefits — all the things we deserve for all the hard work we do day in and day out for children. My generation wants instant gratification given to us in a little box."
"Personally, I think it's important to always be involved and know what's going on," she adds. "We should all take the time to know our rights and the benefits that come from being in a union. I encourage all members to check out a CTA meeting, go to a CTA event and see what it's all about."