President’s Message: Now We Start Building Back Better

For many of us, the election results brought a great sense of relief and were a cause for celebration.

It’s now clear that our next President will be Joe Biden, who won the most popular votes in U.S. history.

Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris will smash through the glass ceiling, as she becomes the first woman, first Black woman, and first person of Indian descent to be elected to one of our nation’s highest offices. And our first-family will now include our fellow public school teacher, and longtime NEA member, Dr. Jill Biden.

With Betsy DeVos on her way out, we could have a real public school champion as the next Secretary of Education. In fact, our own NEA past-president, Lily Eskelsen García, is under consideration for the position. 

And despite the pandemic, and a misinformation campaign that threatened to disrupt the very foundation of our democracy, we saw historic levels of voter participation and civic engagement.

States also learned what Oregonians have almost taken for granted, that voting by mail is secure and boosts turnout. Thwarting cynical efforts to discredit the results, the integrity of outcomes in every state has been definitively established.

Closer to home, we also saw important progress on everything from funding for parks and libraries to establishing real police oversight and accountability, along with major breakthroughs like free, high-quality Universal Preschool.

And of course, the community again showed resounding support for our schools by passing the PPS bond.

Now is a time to celebrate the enormity of what we have accomplished, and to acknowledge and reflect on the work ahead of us. 

Despite the clear divisions within the electorate, now is a time to come together in solidarity, as a nation and within our own union. Disappointment and loss continue to spread, as we face an unchecked pandemic, a stalled economy, and the isolation of remote work and social distancing. 

In times like this, it’s essential we come together and support each other

And I am moved, but never surprised, every time I see educators sharing lessons, technology hacks, or other creative solutions with their colleagues. We continue to find ways to bridge the distance and break the isolation—in our classrooms, our school communities, and our union.

This holiday I hope you will find safe ways to reach out to loved ones and connect with friends and family. Remember that your colleagues, just like your students and their families, may be balancing more than you know. 

This Thanksgiving break, I hope you find opportunities for a much-deserved rest, for Covid-safe connections with loved ones, and time to appreciate the things that bring you joy and comfort.  

I also hope you’ll join me and make time to reflect on and honor the history of Indigenous People here in Oregon this month, including the very land we occupy.

Thanks to PAT’s Social Justice Committee, we have a growing list of resources to help educators at all grade levels bring Native American studies into our classrooms. This is a work in progress, so please share your recommendations and let us know what else we should add.

In Solidarity,

Elizabeth Thiel
PAT President