Hi! I’m Avery Fish and I teach 2nd grade in the Centennial School District. I moved from California to begin my teaching journey at the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!) and have been an Oregonian ever since.
I began my union work thanks to a gentle push from a colleague. At first, I didn’t think it was for me but was in awe of the work being done. My involvement in my union has improved my experience as a teacher. I feel more connected to my students, my families, and my colleagues, and it makes the daily challenges of the job easier. There is nothing better than helping students grow emotionally, socially, and academically — and knowing you have hundreds of people behind you to help you succeed.
Last year, I had the opportunity to join OEA’s Union School and the University of Oregon Labor Education and Research Center (LERC) as part of their first Emerging Leaders course. The focus of the course was to get new leaders from across the state to meet and discuss our union, learn leadership skills, and develop ways to involve ourselves in union work.
We started out by learning the history of unions throughout the United States and how OEA fit into this history. Education unions have a long history and are some of the strongest remaining unions left in our nation. This helped put in perspective where our union is today, how we got here, and all the work that was done by countless people before us. It is very humbling to receive the benefits of other’s hard work and hardships.
The most inspiring part of the Emerging Leaders project was having the opportunity to visit other buildings in my district and ask members why they pay their dues or what they value about their union. I loved meeting educators from my district and hearing their experiences as OEA members.
It was beyond motivating to talk with our members and hear their personal stories. Their answers ranged from job security, to our advocacy for students and teachers, to negotiating strong contracts. I appreciated the opportunity to hear what is important to our members and to hear such variety in their responses. Our members are our strongest and most important voices for our students and our needs as educators.
I encourage everyone to ask themselves why they pay their dues or what they love about being an OEA member. Then, share your story with one other person. It may seem strange or daunting at first but ask your teaching partner or your best friend at work, and branch out from there. You will learn a lot about each other just by asking that one question.
This story is part of a series featuring OEA members at all levels of our organization. Stay tuned as we feature 10 incredible members over the next month!
Learn more about the Union School!
The Union School is OEA’s premier professional development and leadership training hub and provides a comprehensive continuum of member education courses through both localized and statewide events. The Union School supports and cultivates strong union leaders and member-activists at every level of the organization. Check out recent Union School news here.