Despite the lyrics of Christmas tunes, there is another “most wonderful time of the year” for education professionals and it does not occur during the winter holiday. The most wonderful time of the year for educational professionals in Baltimore city is the last week in August when students return to school. AFT-Maryland continued our practice of school tours during the first week. The purpose of the tour is to welcome students and staff back to school, and also to remind education professionals that their union is here to support them during the school year.
“We are here to support the staff as well as the parents and the students because while the parents and students have a little anxiety, our teachers feel the same way. So just being here with a smile on our face, letting them know we are lending support to them, we are here if there is anything that they need, sharing benefits packets and things like that with them is very important here to us and why we are here during the first week of school,” said AFT-Maryland president Kenya Campbell.
For the back-to-school tour, AFT-Maryland covered the entire city, visiting schools from the northwest part of the city in the Howard Park neighborhood, all the way to southeast Baltimore’s Curtis Bay neighborhood. The state federation met with new and returning staff and engaged and interacted with students as they began the school year with practical learning activities. The tour was an opportunity to support AFT-Maryland members who work in education, but to also strengthen and solidify the bonds between education professionals and the larger labor movement. Metro Baltimore AFL-CIO president Courtney Jenkins joined AFT-Maryland for part of the tour and reminded members of the interconnectedness of educators and union workers.
“It’s important we show solidarity. Teachers are members of unions as well, and we wouldn’t have the electrician, the plumber, the postal worker, the firefighter, or any of our other affiliated members without educators standing up and educating our students on what they need to do to succeed in their careers and their lives,” Jenkins said. He passed out AFL-CIO union literature to members and invited them to stay connected to the AFL-CIO.
The tour was just the beginning for AFT-Maryland engaging members. President Campbell believes it is best when she is able to visit members where they are. “Being able to get out of the office and travel across Maryland and talk with teachers, paraprofessionals and other school related personnel during this time is very important. It allows me to introduce myself, reintroduce myself, talk with members, hear their concerns, their needs and things that are going well.”
AFT-Maryland continues to engage members at the worksite. The 2023 Back to School tour was but one example of meeting members where they are to demonstrate the commitment the state federation has to its members.