Three Women of Color to Head America’s Largest Union
Rick Runion

In the August issue of ESSENCE, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke candidly to editor-in-chief Vanessa K. Bush about the importance of building educational opportunities for our children. As a heavily involved mom herself, FLOTUS stresses that parents and educators should be similarly active in their child’s pursuit of knowledge. 

Continuing in that effort are the newest leaders of the National Education Association—president Lily Eskelsen García, vice-president Rebecca S. Pringle and secretary-treasurer Princess Moss. Garcia, the first woman of color to run a major union in the past 25 years, says working with parents is a top priority on her agenda. “Mothers and fathers want real information about their kids,” said president-elect “We are going to bring back what it means to serve the whole child— mind, body and character.”

The trio was elected last week in Denver at the NEA’s annual meeting by nearly 10,000 delegates. Together, they will represent three million educators.

In an interview with ESSENCE, García said another one of her objectives is to address what she calls “toxic testing” that is occurring in public schools. “Politicians have been so obsessed with standardized test scores,” she said. Instead, García is advocating for a curriculum that emphasizes an integrated learning experience in the arts, music and community service. 

Pringle, García’s right hand, is focused on teacher retention—particularly among African-American educators. “We are losing our African-American teachers faster than other groups,” she says. According to a 2012 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, just seven percent of America’s 3.3 million public school teachers were Black. 

García agrees, and hopes that her election will be the change agent needed to keep Black educators in the classroom. “If a student sees someone who looks like her, it gives her even more confidence that she can succeed,” she explains. 

Moss rounds out the NEA team, filling Pringle’s former position as secretary-treasurer. With some 21 years of teaching experience, Moss is a strong proponent of the fine arts and will be heading the mission to integrate subjects in this field into school curricula.  “A good education can open the door of opportunity to be whatever you want to be,” she said.