Long ago, when I was a really young teacher still trying to just figure out how to be a good teacher, I became aware of the efforts of the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) to push teachers into a relationship and mandatory membership with the National Education Association (NEA). Early in my career as a teacher, I had joined TSTA, as had most teachers, and even attended several conventions in Dallas. When I was a member, TSTA served the educators of Texas and provided support. But somewhere in the mid-seventies, they lost their way and took a very different direction. I was a bit of a rebel and felt this mandatory membership in a national group did not serve me as an educator. So I voted no. Twice I voted no, and without regard to the membership’s votes, TSTA merged with NEA.
In my local area, a new group, the Association of Texas Educators (ATE), was created. I joined and soon became the Richardson ATE local membership representative. A great lady, Louise Nelson, took me under her wing and began to help and guide me as the membership person. The office for ATE was in Richardson, so I was at the office often with membership stuff. Somewhere after a year or two, there was a need for someone to run for ATE state vice president. I was asked to run so there would be more than one candidate. I said yes, knowing I probably had no chance of winning. Well, I didn’t win, but enjoyed the convention. A few years later, I was asked to run again for vice president of ATE. We were discussing merging with Texas Professional Educators (TPE), and there was a lot going on at the convention and in Texas. Again, I said yes and ran. This time, I won by two votes and became the last vice president of ATE. The next thing I knew, we were in merger talks with TPE and I was on the consolidation board.
As part of the merger, the consolidation board voted on new officers for ATPE. Amazingly, I was elected by the board to serve as the new vice president. Wow, how far I had come in such a very short time. This was 1980, and at that time, I was only 31 years old and had taught for about eight years. Later, we had the first ATPE convention in Austin, and I was elected vice president by the members. That is how I became the only person elected twice for vice president, serving for just over one and one half years in this office. Of course, Alafair Hammett was elected president twice and also served for one and one half years.
The thing I remember most about these times and the people I had the opportunity to work with was the strength of their leadership and ongoing mentorship for those of us who were just getting started. People like Alafair, Floyd Trimble, Judy Coyle, Mike Morrow, Fred Weisner, Bill Crockett, and so many others continually gave support and assistance to everyone. They not only established a great association but also set the roles for those who followed. Much of whatever success that occurred when I was president must be credited to each of these individuals, who provided the model for me. Even when I became a principal, what I had learned from these leaders served me so, so very well, so many times. This mentorship is still alive and well in ATPE, and it is the reason for ATPE’s continued success and amazing growth. Professionalism at its best.
—Charles Pickitt, ATPE past president, 1981-82
Learn more about ATPE’s 35-year history in the Winter 2015 issue of ATPE News.