ATPE is proud to bring you this series of posts from our staff members. Today’s post features Staff Attorney Judd Gibson.
What drew you to working at ATPE?
Most of my close family members have served, or still serve, as teachers and counselors in our Texas public schools, so educators have always been a very important part of my life. My mother was a teacher at Sabine ISD, my father was a teacher and counselor at Longview ISD, and my sister is currently a counselor at Lake Travis ISD. Both of my grandmothers worked in Texas public schools, one as a teacher and another as an aide. And many of my aunts, uncles, and cousins are also educators in Texas. It’s really the family business.
After graduating from the University of North Texas in 1992, I stepped into the classroom as a high school social studies and English teacher for seven years in Lewisville ISD and Rusk ISD before deciding to enroll in law school in 1999. After graduating from the University of Texas School of Law in 2002, I worked as an attorney for a firm in Washington, DC, for two years doing legal work for government contractors and universities with federal research grants. Assisting universities with legal issues was the highlight of my work with the firm, and I enjoyed practicing law with a connection to education.
The opportunity to return to Texas and work for ATPE in 2005 in school law and employment law was a terrific one for me. Although I am not in the classroom any longer, I make my living helping teachers and other school district employees with their employment concerns, and I consider that a privilege since I hold educators in such high esteem. Being an educator is a demanding and difficult job. It’s also the most important job I can think of. So I am especially glad to support our ATPE members by providing helpful, timely advice, as well as practical and legal approaches to their problems.
How long have you been working at ATPE? What was your first job here?
I have worked as an attorney at ATPE for 11 years, since 2005. My first role in the legal department was as an on-call attorney, and I answered incoming legal calls from ATPE members on our hotline. Then, I moved to a position as a travel attorney, where I still talk to members on the phone on a daily basis but also travel throughout the state to represent ATPE members in grievance proceedings. I enjoy driving around Texas and visiting schools to serve our members.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned while working here?
Listen before talking. I have learned that, even when I believe I have a good grasp of an ATPE member’s concerns, it is important to listen fully before providing relevant legal advice and counsel. Sometimes, I learn crucial information by being willing to listen for longer than initially seems necessary. Each ATPE member who contacts us for legal advice has a unique story and unique goals and wishes, and I need to understand before I can advise. Much of my job involves counseling ATPE members on practical approaches to resolving employment concerns, as well as advising ATPE members on the law and their legal options, such as filing a formal grievance.
What is your favorite part of working at ATPE?
I have two favorite parts. One is helping educators. The second is having great working relationships with my colleagues and supervisors, who also are eager to serve educators and support Texas public education. We have a lot of intellectually stimulating conversations in the legal department, and the cases are very interesting. With ten attorneys on staff and a wide variety of legal matters each day, there is rarely a dull moment in our department!
Share something fun about yourself that ATPE members might not know.
I was an ATPE member when I taught school in the 1990s, so my connection to ATPE began long before my job here. Also, I have two children who attend a public elementary school, and I enjoy taking them to class every morning. They help me to stay in touch with what’s going on with today’s students and educators. I am glad to say they both enjoy school and think highly of their teachers and other campus staff.
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