Many students can think back to the teacher who helped them get through a difficult time and to achieve goals they thought they would never be able to achieve.
For AFT MA Executive Board member Brenda Chaney, it was a person outside of school who allowed her to achieve her goals of helping others.
Though Chaney says that she “always wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl,” she was not able to realize this dream until she had married and started a family. In fact, had she not followed this path, she may have very well been on quite another one.
The man who made it possible for Chaney was her late husband , Haywood. In addition to caring for their seven children and managing the household, Haywood worked full-time and still made time to take his wife to the library so she could study and prepare for her degree in education.
“I would not have been able to go and complete school without his help,” Chaney says.
Once her path had been set, Chaney followed it with gusto, attending her first union meeting in only her second year in the profession.
“I became interested in what was going on,” the former teacher at the Donald Mckay School in East Boston explains, “and started attending on a regular basis.”
Two years later, Chaney became a building representative
at the Dearborn School, where she also began to participate in a number of committees, including AFT MA’s Intervention Teams.
When asked what prompted her to become a member of the Executive Board, Chaney names another personal inspiration, colleague Joan Devlin, whose encouragement kept Chaney focused on her goal even when she did not win a seat after her first campaign in 1990. Since 1992, however, Chaney has been a devoted Board member and a formidable force on behalf of AFT MA’s goals.
“I feel that I've represented the people who have elected me over the years,” she says, suggesting herself as an especially strong voice for middle and high teachers who enjoys “talking and advocating for the real issues that teachers face in the classroom every day.”
When asked what the most prevalent issues have been in her long tenure, Chaney replies that, among them are the lack of value teachers are afforded in many communities and how their expertise is often discredited.
“All of the individual creativity of teachers and students is stifled,” she observes, blaming testing as the main reason why quantity is being favored over quality in many schools and districts.
“Some testing is needed to check what your students needs are,” she admits, “but this excessive testing is not how you help your students grow.”