The Blog at CTA

What the NEA RA is Really Like From a First Time Delegate

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By: Renata Sanchez, Vice President of San José Teachers Association

Hi everyone! My name is Renata Sanchez and I am a member (and newly-elected Vice President) of the San José Teachers Association...And THIS is my first RA! I wanted to share a little bit about my experience as a first-time delegate at the RA and hopefully convince some of you to give it a try.

Before we start with that, you might want to know, what is the RA?

The NEA RA stands for the National Education Association Representative Assembly. It is the world’s largest democratic assembly! Each year, the RA takes place in a different city around the United States. The 2017 RA is in Boston, Massachusetts this year. Over 10,500 delegates and guests registered! That can be pretty overwhelming for first-timers, but take a breath, hydrate, ask for help, and get ready for an inspiring week.

Day 1: California Caucus Day

My first day started with the very important New Delegate Orientation. During this orientation, I met several other first-time delegates, got the crucial advice to HYDRATE, learned about California’s role in the RA, heard from CTA leadership, and received my very first ribbon of the week (of the 9 I am currently wearing!).

Right after orientation ended, we went into our first California Caucus meeting. Whenever caucus begins, we are treated to a patriotic song by members of CTA. The first day, the CTA/NEA choir began the day by singing the National Anthem. What a fun and positive way to start each day! During our caucus meeting, we took positions on items that we would be voting on during the first day of the RA.

Next, was registration, and I had to register twice -- once with CTA, and once with NEA. This whole process can be really confusing, so luckily they have signs that tell you where to go, and information booths where you can ask questions to staff members. I found these to be incredibly helpful as someone trying to navigate the RA for the first time.

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Phew! I was able to navigate where to go and what to do, and got my name badge! The security required when getting and wearing the badge reminded me of when I went to Comic-Con -- you couldn’t enter the building without your badge! I learned really quickly to wear it all the time.

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After getting my credentials, it was time to hop onto the NEA Shuttle. CTA and NEA provide shuttles for delegates to and from the NEA hotels during each day of the RA. Did we get a quiet night to get adjusted to the time change? I think not!

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Our first night was California Director’s Night at the New England Aquarium! Our CTA Board of Directors hosted a beautiful night where California delegates and guests were able to visit the aquarium and meet delegates from all over the state. I loved eating dinner with the penguins, watching the sea lions play, and watching a scuba diver welcome CTA in a 360 degree aquarium tank.

Day 2: Preparing for the RA

Day 2 was full of open hearings for policies, resolutions, and relevant committees. I am so lucky that I chose this year to begin to attend the RA because there was a new event. Our NEA President, Lily Eskelsen García, hosted a reception for all new RA delegates from across the United States. I met delegates from Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, Nevada, and several other states as we played a game of delegate bingo and Kahoot. During the reception, I was able to get a few coveted minutes with Ms. Eskelsen García, where I told her about my activism within my local association, and excitement about the RA.

I also found CTA President, Eric Heins, at the reception!

The 50th anniversary of NEA's Civil and Human Rights Awards Dinner was held the night before the RA. My service center sponsored a table at the dinner for first-time delegates, and I happily took one of those seats. Throughout the dinner, we heard about the inspiring work of social justice activists from across the country. It was a perfect way to set the stage for the RA, reminding us of the importance of our work for the rest of the week. I especially appreciated hearing from Marty Meeden, Kent Wong, representatives from Migrant Justice, and Jim Obergefell. They are all reminders of the change that can result from one person fighting for what they believe in.

Days 3-6: The 155th NEA Representative Assembly

By the time the RA began, I had already felt like I had been in Boston for much longer than 2 days! Walking onto the floor for the first time was a moment that I will hold near and dear to my heart for the rest of my life. When the doors opened, thousands upon thousands of educator delegates (over 1,000 from California alone) began filing into a hall and made their way to their state’s section with smiles on their faces. Music blared, people danced, and there was aura of solidarity, purpose, and potential in the air. It is truly indescribable.

During the 4 days of the NEA RA, I have had opportunities to discuss, debate, stand at microphones, and (most importantly) vote, vote, vote. I voted on everything from NEA’s new charter school policy; members of NEA leadership team; NEA constitutional, resolution, and policy amendments; and to re-elect the President Lily Eskelsen Garcia, Vice President Becky Pringle, and Secretary-Treasurer Princess Moss. I’ve also had some quality time with other California delegates and had the opportunity to attend the Robert Birle Memorial Dinner (hosted by the NEA GLBT caucus).

I leave this meeting of the 2017 NEA Representative Assembly humbled by the dedication of educators from across the United States dedicating a portion of their summer to stand up for what they believe in. There have been some contentious moments and some compromises, but we have come out on the other side an even stronger union than we were at the start. I also feel privileged for having been elected to represent CTA as a state delegate. I have done my very best to represent you and hope that I have done you all proud. 

Next year’s RA will take place from June 30-July 5, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Please consider running for election at the state or local level to become a delegate for CTA. It is a great way to make a lasting impact on the landscape of public education… plus, I’ll be a veteran next year and will be happy to help guide you! ;-) 

See you in Minneapolis!

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