FORESTVILLE — Theresa Mitchell Dudley, president of the Prince George’s County Educator Association (PGCEA), was elected as the first African American branch director from Prince George’s County of the National Educators Association (NEA) Maryland on March 22.
Dudley will serve as one of 435 NEA directors from across the country, and as one of four from Maryland, to help lead the national teachers union and continue to advocate for issues facing schools and teachers in Prince George’s County.
“What it means for Prince George’s County is I get to work with the national board on national issues, like the things that are affecting us in Prince George’s County that are national issues, bring those to those meetings and share that with other national leaders,” she said.
With PGCEA being the county representative for the national teachers union, the NEA encompasses the PGCEA and the Maryland State Educators Association (MSEA).
It is the nation’s largest professional employee organization with three million members across the country ranging from preschool teachers to university graduate programs. Since 1857, the organization has served as the voice of public education advocating for the rights of all students and educators.
“MSEA has 74,000 members statewide and it is up to the members to choose who sits on the MSEA board and the seats that Maryland has for NEA directors as well,” said Adam Mendelson, an NEA staff member.
Dudley will serve as the branch director for NEA Maryland for two years while also remaining as the president of the PGCEA to finish out her term during that time, in addition to the many other community positions she holds.
“I’m also a voting member of the MSEA Board of Directors,” she said. “So I’ll actually be serving on three boards on all three levels of NEA at the same time.”
In addition to being heavily involved with education advocacy, Dudley is also the chair of the Minority Caucus MSEA, and she represents the 47th District of the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee where she is also the first vice chair. She taught in Prince George’s County Public Schools for 20 years and has been involved in many other political and civic activism positions throughout her career.
In her new role with the NEA Maryland, Dudley will be meeting with other educators on a national scale, working to bring innovative solutions to the problems facing the school system, bringing those ideas back to PGCPS and bringing what has been working in Prince George’s County to a broader base.
“Prince George’s County has very high concentrations of poverty in a lot of our schools and what programming, what best practices are we implementing here and if we’re doing a good job at those things we should share it on a national level. With community schools coming down the road, we’re definitely going to be doing some big things.”
Her main goals include ensuring that the selection of the presidential candidates of the NEA is as inclusive as it can be as well as making sure that the issues that are affecting teachers on the ground level with respect to the different taxes on teachers is looked at, such as high taxes on teachers’ stipends.
It has been quite some time since the NEA has had a branch director from Prince George’s County and back then, the county was predominantly white.
“This is sort of a new day,” Dudley said, where a now majority African American county can have an African American leader on the national teachers union board.
With that, Dudley said she hopes to be able to bring a different perspective into the position. There are not many minority NEA directors, and she hopes to be able to further help the organization look at a county like Prince George’s County and see what has been successful and what work needs to be done.
“It’s given me a different lens to look at things and to see how we’re thinking on a national level with respect to minority issues,” Dudley said. “Are we doing what we need to do in Maryland? That’s the beauty of being on the state board as far as minority children and making sure they are receiving these services they should be receiving.”