Monroe Elementary Mom Encourages Volunteering for Teachers
The Anoka-Hennepin School District and its teachers’ union remain in talks for a new contract. Teachers have been working without a contract since July.
As the union implements new ways to get its message heard, one volunteer in Brooklyn Park says helpers are needed now more than ever.
“The teachers’ workload during a regular school year is pretty packed with different meetings, preparing for lessons, lesson planning, collaboration, teaching the students,” listed Amy Oliver, the principal at Monroe Elementary in Brooklyn Park.
As each school day goes by, Oliver says teachers can’t do it alone. They’re bolstered by support staff, including volunteers.
Monroe Elementary parent Melissa Behrens is one of those helpers dedicating hours in the staff room. She makes flash cards, laminates worksheets and prepares curriculum materials, among many other things.
Behrens said upper-level schools typically employ an assistant to do the work she does. At the elementary level, educators and volunteers take it on themselves.
“There is way more that these teachers are doing that we don’t even comprehend and we don’t even think about outside their hours,” Behrens said.
That can look like a number of different things: taking paperwork home, spending hours after class in parent meetings and working through lunch hours.
Principal Oliver has seen 179 volunteers come through Monroe doors this school year alone, spending 752 hours helping.
“Anoka-Hennepin has a very good support system for volunteers,” Oliver said. “Each of our schools has a volunteer coordinator who are supported by district level staff.”
People can sign up to volunteer on the district’s website.
‘Work to Rule’
Today, as educators with Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota (AHEM) continue to work without a contract, union members are taking part in a so-called “work-to-rule” demonstration.
This comes after months of negotiating for a new contract both with and without a mediator. Union President Valerie Holthus told CCX News on the phone that work to rule is a way to bring attention to all the work teachers do outside their duty day.
“My family asks: ‘Well, then, if you aren’t doing it, then who’s doing it?’ The teachers are doing it. They are taking this stuff home at nighttime. They are taking it on their weekend,” Behrens said.
Under work to rule, teachers fulfill paid duties but do not work beyond their contract hours. In response to that, volunteers like Behrens are stepping up in small ways.
“We cannot take the role of a teacher,” Behrens said. “So let’s take a couple things from them that we can do. So that space is reserved in their head and their hearts for what they really need to do for their students.”
The union and district are meeting for contract mediation again on Friday, Jan. 19.