Each year at the Retired Gathering, an educator or group is recognized with the “Honor Our Own” award for outstanding service. Retired Ayer-Shirley Regional Education Association member Louise Gaskins, a pioneer for ethnic minority involvement in the MTA and NEA and a leader on human and civil rights, was awarded this year’s honor. Here are remarks by former MTA President and MTA Retired Committee member Anne Wass, who nominated Gaskins for the award along with Retired Members Committee Chair Jackie Gorrie.
Louise Gaskins is a pioneer for the involvement of women and people of color in education, the MTA and the NEA.
I first met Louise in the 1970ʼs when I was a new member on the MTA Bylaws and Rules Committee. Louise took me under her wing and mentored me from that time forward, both as a teacher and a union member. She is one of the greatest influences on my life and coached me on how to be a leader.
Meeting and forming a friendship with Louise changed my life. She opened my eyes to the problems our minority members face every day, both professionally and in everyday life. She made it real for me and others who heard her speak. She modeled patience and tenacity at the same time.
When my anger at the injustices that African Americans faced every day got too heated, she showed me how to rise above anger and do something about it.
Louise was a teacher, a guidance counselor, and she finished her career in education as a principal. She paved the way for future black women to follow. She served on numerous MTA committees and was instrumental in getting the ethnic minority seat of the Board of Directors. She served on the MTA Board, as well as on the NEA Board. She was a mover on the NEA Resolutions Committee, especially leading on issues of race and social justice. At a state caucus meeting at an NEA RA recently, she spoke passionately on LBGT issues. She worked many years as an MTA retirement consultant on Saturday mornings, helping our members prepare for their retirement.
After she retired from education, she went on to work for 17 years at the Massachusetts Teachersʼ Retirement System, continuing to offer support to our members. After leaving that position, she remains active in her town of Groton by working at the polls on every Election Day.
Louise has devoted her life to helping people — students and adults — in the schools and in the community.
Louise is one of the best listeners I have ever known. After listening carefully, she is able to find creative solutions to any situation. When I first met Louise and heard her eloquent and inspiring speeches at the MTA Annual Meetings and the NEA RA, I used to think she was like a female Martin Luther King Jr. Her leadership, wisdom and strength would have made her an excellent MTA president. But the organization wasnʼt ready for her at that time. Her humility and gentleness make her blush when I say that about her. Her life is one of dignity and grace. I believe she would be honored by receiving this award from her colleagues.