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Not Feeling Small Anymore - Legislative post by UEA Policy Ambassador Sam Dixon

2/5/2019

Legislative report submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador Sam Dixon, teacher at Fairfield Jr. High School in Davis School District

 
UEA Policy Ambassador Sam Dixon (center) joined about
60 teachers at Educator Day on the Hill Feb. 1
A couple of years ago, some events in our country had me questioning my role in our democracy and my efficacy within a system that doesn’t always seem to respond to the needs of the people. Shortly after that, I saw the email for UEA Educator Day on the Hill pop up in my inbox and I thought this might be a good way for me to get involved. I am a teacher and I have expertise in the field, so advocating for myself, and my fellow teachers would be a great way for me to get my feet wet.

As I walked to the Copper Room inside the Senate building for EDOH, I felt like I was in the wrong place.

As soon as I turned the corner, I was warmly greeted at the door. I was given a couple of buttons, a packet containing a map of all the senators and representatives, an agenda for the day, and most importantly, a legislative tracking sheet. This itemizes all the different legislation the UEA is following, along with an easy-to-understand breakdown of the various positions of support, or opposition.

We were all given the chance to introduce ourselves. We were debriefed about the legislative process, our role in that process, and some of the highlighted legislation that would impact our profession. Several state senators and representatives popped in to say hello, to thank us, and to describe any legislation they were sponsoring.

I must admit, there was an intimidation factor on that first day as I walked inside the rotunda of the Utah State Capitol building. The history, the magnitude, the grandeur, this building was the physical manifestation of the Utah republic.

Under the enormous weight of that giant dome it is difficult not to feel small…I felt small.

I followed the lead of the others. I filled out a green ticket and a blue ticket and handed them to the men in the green jackets. I briefly spoke with my state representative and although I didn’t do the best job articulating all the thoughts racing through my mind, he listened to me and he thanked me before rushing back in for a floor vote. 

I went home feeling a little overwhelmed, but I knew that day was the beginning of something.

This year, I attended my third Educator Day on the Hill. I walked into the Copper Room in the Senate building knowing right where to go, knowing just who would greet me. I felt confident because I had already examined the legislative tracking sheet and I knew where it was on the website.

I spoke with that same state representative. We were much more familiar because we had spoken and emailed several times between then and now. He reassured me that education was his top priority just before rushing back in for a floor vote. 

I ended the day giving public testimony for the first time during a Senate Education Committee meeting. One of the committee members was freshman Senator Kathleen Riebe, a current school teacher. They were discussing a funding mechanism for schools to get reimbursement from Medicaid when mental health services are provided to students in a public school.

As I walked away from the Capitol Building that day knowing that even if for a moment my voice was heard…I did not feel small.

p.s., Here is a link to the Senate Education Committee meeting. My testimony is at the 33-minute mark.

About UEA Policy Ambassadors—

In 2019, seven teachers volunteered to become UEA Policy Ambassadors. These teachers received training from the UEA Legislative Team and have agreed to participate in UEA Educator Day on the Hill, engage with their legislators and share their experiences with UEA members.

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