Local Leader Spotlight: Sue Darnell
Get to know Sue Darnell, who is the Vice President-Teacher for the Laurel Education Association (LEA) and a classroom teacher at Laurel Elementary School. Darnell has served in a variety of local association leadership roles during her 40 years as an educator. LEA represents over 250 teachers, specialists, and education support professionals across the district's four schools.
... on why she chose a career in public education
"I can’t really remember when a conscious choice was made. I always enjoyed school and did well in school and as I grew up it just seemed like a natural fit. I grew up thinking that this is what I am going to do."
... on how she first got involved with her union
"I feel teachers need to have an active say in what occurs in their profession and as such our voices have to be heard, otherwise, people who do not have the knowledge and experience that we have, will jump in to make ill-formed decisions on our behalf. I feel like having a voice protects the profession and ensures that it will still be a valued profession for those educators who follow us."
... on why she became a local leader for her union
"I was passed over for a job because I was a special education teacher and they didn’t want to take me out of that role. I went to my Association and they advocated for me and I ended up being able to transfer into the elementary position. LEA leadership at the time had been in place for a while and they were looking for some new people, so I served as Co-President for a year and have been in a leadership role of some kind ever since."
... on how public education has changed for the better
"One way that education has improved over the years is that we are much more data driven in that we make very informed decisions about the needs of students. We are also much quicker to identify and help remediate struggling learners. Interventions are put into place much quicker which allow for students to be provided with the instruction they need."
... on what public education needs to fix going forward
"One thing that needs to be fixed in education is the burden on the teacher. More and more gets added to the teachers’ “plate” and nothing is removed. There is never enough time to get everything done and it comes with a sense that we aren’t doing our best because we are pulled in so many different directions. Education needs to step back and prioritize and give teachers the time and tools needed to perform their jobs."
... on what is most rewarding to her as a leader
"My most rewarding times are the times I have advocated for individual members. I like being a support for members who feel they aren’t being heard or that they are in a tough position. I know how thankful these people are to have someone else sitting with them when they are in a tough spot."
... on the local association win she is most proud of
"Probably our biggest win was when Laurel went to arbitration over contract negotiations. I believe we were the first local association to do so. It was a grueling process to get all of the materials today and even a tougher process when we had to –basically take the stand- and defend our contract. It was a huge win for Laurel and told our District that we would push the envelope and go the distance for what we believed in."
... on what she wants potential members to know
"They are the voice of education and if they want to have a say in what education looks like in the future- they need to be a part of that discussion or at least support those that will take on that role of protecting the education field. all of us need the support and backing of a large group. All of us should be grateful for the support of a community of professionals the Union represents."
... on what she wants current members to know
"Education has been a great career and something that I have enjoyed for many years. And it can still be that for each and every one of you too. I would also tell them that it still can be that for them as well. persevere through the tough times because there will be many good times that will make it all worthwhile. I would also tell the Laurel members thank you for supporting me for all these years and for giving me the opportunity to represent them."