I never thought I would be an educator. No way was I ever going back to school. I hated most of my time as a student in high school. The only highlights included being part of the newspaper and yearbook staff and competing on the debate team.
Fast forward to six months after high school graduation. I was involved in a head-on car collision and spent about 12 weeks in a wheelchair and a year in physical therapy. A two-year lawsuit taught me the ins and outs of the legal system, insurance rules, medical records coding, case law, and enough legal jargon to make your head spin.
That marked the beginning of my first career. In the legal field, I found a place that was black and white, right and wrong. I earned an associate of applied science degree and worked as a paralegal before deciding to get a bachelor’s degree in legal administration. I worked full time and went to school four nights a week. I rode the bus from League City to downtown Houston every day until I got my degree. Eight years later, I was the paralegal and assistant to the managing partner of a law firm. But I also felt like I had reached the ceiling. I knew I did not want to go to law school, so I started looking at options.
Because of my law background, I decided to get certified to teach special education. I pursued my alternative certification, taught for three years, and eventually completed my master’s degree. Being a teacher was sometimes difficult, but I know it was the best decision I ever made. In my first year, I taught three different subjects in a resource setting on a fifth- and sixth-grade campus. After doing that, I felt like I could do anything! I learned so much from my special education teammates, and to this day, I still consider them family.
When I heard representatives from the different teacher groups speak on campus, I knew I would choose ATPE. With my background in law, I knew that access to an attorney—and not just a representative with little or no legal training—was what I wanted. Why would I waste time with a group that couldn’t help me? Why would I pay dues to an organization that isn’t member governed and doesn’t offer the kind of coverage and guaranteed benefits that ATPE offers? It didn’t make sense to spend hundreds of dollars on an out-of-state union, as opposed to an in-state professional association.
I look at my ATPE employment defense membership benefits in the same way I look at home or auto insurance. You never want to have to use it, but if you do, you have it. That gives me peace of mind. Three years into my teaching career, I had to call on ATPE for assistance with a grievance, followed by a few more grievances on my campus. I know each case is different, but every ATPE member I’ve spoken to who needed legal assistance has said that they were happy with the way their issue was handled and, most of all, they were able to manage it with less STRESS. My attorney and I worked together to resolve the issues, and I went on my way with a great career. Had I gone with another group, like some of my coworkers did, I believe I would not have had the outcome I did.
That was seven years and two districts ago, and I am thankful every day that ATPE has had my back throughout my career.
I am an avid ATPE supporter, volunteer, and team member. I am proud to support ATPE and our members as a local unit officer, a member of the Legislative Committee, a member of the Political Action Committee, and a participant in ATPE at the Capitol and in local events.
I truly believe ATPE is the best educators’ professional organization in the state.
Paula Franklin is the special education instructional specialist at Galveston ISD. She is also the secretary of the Galveston ATPE local unit.