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“We have a long history of member engagement — and we’re always looking for new ideas!”
—Alyson Brauning, VTA member engagement chair

Vacaville Teachers Association takes member engagement seriously. The chapter’s latest project, completed in late March, was a Welcome Back Campaign as educators began returning to in-person schooling. The thoughtful initiative sent all 680 of its members gift cards to local businesses — a win-win, and a community engagement effort at the same time.

Two women standing on sidewalk by "El Patron" sign

VTA Member Engagement Committee members Jouli Jara, left, and Alyson Brauning in front of El Patron, a local restaurant that participated in VTA’s Welcome Back Campaign.

“I wanted to include a community partnership component to this member engagement campaign,” says VTA member engagement chair Alyson Brauning. “Local businesses are opening up, and I felt this was an excellent way to help them and to give our members something they would enjoy.”

She points out that VTA already had relationships with local businesses; in the last five or six years they have worked together on special events such as Taco Tuesdays, Day of the Teacher, and Limo Lunches.

As part of the campaign, members also received Calm Strips, described as “textured sensory adhesives” that help with anxiety and fidgeting by “giving you a gentle but textured surface as a stimulus.” Brauning and committee member Jouli Jara thought the reusable strips, which can be placed on laptops, phones, desks, and other spots, could help educators deal with ongoing pandemic stress.

Photo of gift cards and coupons

On VTA’s Facebook page, Brauning and Jara thank teachers, nurses, school psychologists, counselors and “speechies” for their hard work this year, adding, “You deserve a treat!”

The committee also reached out to the Vacaville Unified School District Technology Department. “Before we kicked off the Welcome Back Campaign, Jouli and I went to the morning meeting of the Tech Department staff and thanked them for their [ongoing] support of VTA members,” Brauning says. “We gave each of them a $10 gift certificate to a local business.” She notes that the department’s digital education coordinators, as opposed to its regular staff, are VTA members. “The coordinators got the same Welcome Back items as all other VTA members in the mail.”

Not surprisingly, VTA members are happy — and engaged — with their chapter’s tokens of gratitude. “I just received this! What a lovely lovely thing to do for us and for our local businesses!” wrote Sarah Frey Lyon on Facebook. “Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness and time in putting this together!”

Brauning, a middle school teacher who is also VTA equity team chair and Redwood Service Center Council chair, says VTA has a line-item budget of $10,000 a year for member engagement. As well as meeting member needs, the chapter prides itself on the work members do in the community and at school sites.

“We have a long history of member engagement,” Brauning says. “And we’re always looking for new ideas!”