Teacher of the Year to Union President - Lily Eskelsen García
About LILY ESKELSEN GARCIA
Lily Eskelsen Garcia is an American teacher and trade union leader. She was born on May 1st, 1955. As President of the 3.2 million-member National Education Association, she leads the largest labor union in the United States. Her father was in the United States Army. After high school, she married Ruel Eskelsen. Her husband died on March 18, 2011. They have two children. Eskelsen began her career as a cafeteria worker, and then a kindergarten helper, before going back to school to pursue a teaching degree. She worked her way through the University of Utah on scholarships, student loans, and as a famishing folk singer, graduating magna cum laude in elementary education. She had done her master's degree in instructional technology. After some years, while in union leadership positions, she taught homeless children in a single classroom.
Labor leader in Utah
She received ‘the Teacher of the Year award’ and it encouraged her. In 1990, she won a write-in election for the post of the “president of the Utah Education Association” which is a partner of the National Education Association (NEA). She also worked as a president of the Utah State Retirement System.
Political life View:
In 1998, she was the first Hispanic to be chosen as the Democratic Party’s nominee for a U.S. Congressional seat in Utah, receiving 45% of the vote, ultimately losing to current Merrill Cook, in the general selection. In 2000, she worked as a member of president’s White House Strategy Session on Improving Hispanic Education.
Her union leadership has included writing protest songs. As a vice president, she has been part of NEA’s recent prominence on working with the American Labor Movement. She said, "We should tax the millionaires, not teachers and bus drivers".
Due to that, the Utah legislature cut taxes rather than use a budget surplus to increase education spending.
She awarded an “A” to the students with learning disability for drawing a picture and describing the three branches of government to class.
Eskelsen García left full-time teaching since last 24 years, one year after being recognized as Utah’s Teacher of the Year in 1989. The honor gave her a statewide audience & a natural entertainer. She became an outspoken advocate for teachers. She was insisted to run for a leadership position in the Utah Education Association (UEA), the NEA’s state member, and was elected president as a write-in candidate, despite having held no previous union position.
Throughout her career as a union leader, Eskelsen García has been willing to speak to people who disagree with her about ways to improve the quality of education. At a 2010 forum in Washington, she told the audience, “I will listen to your ideas and maybe you’ll listen to my ideas. I will work with you. I have to make this work more than you do. My colleagues and I have more skin in this game than anyone outside the children.”