Gathering features calls for political activism

Neil Clarke received the “Honor Our Own” award at the Retired Members Gathering. Clarke is seen here with his wife, Barbara, left, and MTA Board of Directors member Jackie Gorrie.Neil Clarke received the “Honor Our Own” award at the Retired Members Gathering. Clarke is seen here with his wife, Barbara, left, and MTA Board of Directors member Jackie Gorrie.

Calls for political activism resounded through the 13th Retired Members Gathering on Monday, September 29, at the Sheraton Framingham Hotel.

Neil Clarke, who received the “Honor Our Own” award, reflected on how his work as an educator in Lee, his union activism and his current role as a Senate district coordinator in MTA’s Division of Grassroots Campaigns became entwined.

“Throughout all of these experiences, it was the people I got to know and worked with who made the difference,” Clarke said. “One lesson I’ve learned is to connect the dots regarding significant changes to the art and joy of teaching. Those dots often lead to the doors of politicians, through legislation or funding, or to boards that dictate to educators. And once again, I’ve found that the joy of collegiality and helping achieve positive change.”

Clarke, who attended the ceremony with his wife, Barbara, taught in Lee for 34 years. He is a former member of MTA’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee.

Honor Our Own” recognition is awarded each year by the Retired Members Committee, which evaluates materials that outline the accomplishments of nominees. Joshua Hall, one of Clarke’s former students who is now an educator in the Lee Public Schools, nominated Clarke.

MTA President Barbara Madeloni, Vice President Janet Anderson and Executive Director-Treasurer Ann Clarke thanked the crowd of more than 200 retired members for their years of service to public education and their continued involvement in the MTA.

Anderson pointed out the work of former MTA President Mary Gilmore, for instance, explaining that her advocacy of strong bonds between current and retired members is vital to the association.

Madeloni urged the retirees to share their stories about what the profession was like when they were in the classroom, before standardized testing and punitive evaluation systems became the norm.

“Our active members don’t get to live out the hopes and ideals that drew them to teaching, but you could help make learning joyful again,” Madeloni said. “You have the expertise, and often the time, to speak out when our younger members cannot. And you can’t be fired anymore!”

Kathleen Roberts, co-chair of the Retired Members Committee, also spoke up for activism. She cited her recent 100th birthday as a milestone and asked her colleagues for the “gift” of their political action in the November 4 election. Each table at the gathering was adorned with a birthday card for Roberts that doubled as a sign-up sheet for MTA activities aimed at helping to elect Attorney General Martha Coakley as the state’s next governor.

“Participation in the political process is so important today, especially to help our younger teachers,” Roberts told the crowd.

U.S. Senator Edward Markey sent birthday greetings to Roberts from Washington, D.C., and the retirees enjoyed a large cake in Roberts’ honor.

Each year, the Retired Members Committee works with a school in need of educational supplies. This year, Fonseca Elementary School in Fall River was chosen. Retirees donated books and classroom supplies.

The gathering also featured a variety of workshops covering topics from financial planning to technology — as well as a crash course on this year’s campaigns.

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