As I reflect on my 29 years as an educator, there are certain things I make a point of sharing with new teachers. One of those things is why all teachers should join a professional organization, and why it should be ATPE. I have been a member of ATPE every year of my professional career. I was encouraged to choose ATPE by my mentor, who happened to be the campus spokesperson for ATPE. I have luckily only needed assistance from ATPE once in 29 years, but when I did, I found that ATPE was incredibly responsive and genuinely cared about my situation. Here is my story:
Twenty years ago, I was going to quit my job in October due to personal issues. My department chair urged me to call my professional organization before talking to anyone else. I made the phone call to ATPE, and an attorney called me back the same day to discuss the consequences of breaking my contract. She listened to my whole story and let me know the legal ramifications, but then offered advice. She encouraged me to sit down with my principal and explain my situation. I was very emotional at that time (I had a sick infant), and the ATPE attorney that spoke with me was very patient and spent a great deal of time talking to me to get me back into a rational mode of thinking. Her valuable advice created a situation in which I could advocate for myself instead of just resigning. I felt like she went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure I didn't do anything to jeopardize my future in education. If it had not been for that ATPE attorney, I would have simply resigned mid-year and put my teaching certificate at risk. Instead, I negotiated working part-time until my personal situation improved. I am currently finishing my 27th year at the same school!
Andrea Ramirez is a social studies teacher and school improvement facilitator at Austin ISD. She has been an ATPE member for 27 years.
ATPE Members: Please note that this information does not constitute legal advice and that individuals should consult with an attorney regarding the best solutions to their specific legal issues.