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Letter From UTNO President Wanda Richard to BAE United

Good Afternoon Bricolage Educators,

I want to congratulate you on taking the courageous step to form your union. UTNO has a proud history of courageous actions and in forming your union you are stepping into that proud history.  BAE-United has posted some highlights on Instagram of our accomplishments over the 80 years of our existence. I encourage you to take a look at them here.

I first joined the United Teachers of New Orleans in the Fall of 1978. Back then, I was a preschool special education teacher at McDonogh 42.

I love my kids. Teaching preschool special education students is something that others might find challenging, but I find them inspiring. These kids are the underdogs, the forgotten people. They’re the ones that people think can't do, but they do. They strive and open up and grow, just like any other child. To be successful in this work, you just have to have a passion for what you do, and most of our teachers have a passion for what they do. And that’s why we come together in our Union -- that passion.

When I started, there really wasn’t a question about whether or not I’d join the union. My family has a long legacy of being active in UTNO, and in the 70’s it seemed that every professional educator, who cared about their students and their career would join -- that’s just what we did. The Union has always been the best way for us to come together and advocate; to fight for what we need as educators and what our students need in the classroom.

Not long after I started teaching, we moved to E.D. White (now Langston Hughes) because the building was more accessible for our students. That’s where I first became an UTNO building rep. I enjoyed being able to lead my fellow educators to advocate for themselves and their students, so it was a natural fit. In the 1990 strike to raise paraprofessionals pay I was on maternity leave, but the moment I was able to, I joined the picket line because to me, this has always been about supporting my fellow educators as we all work to serve our students.

When Brenda Mitchell ran for re-election as UTNO President, she asked me to run for the Executive Council. From there I just kept finding new ways to serve my colleagues in the Union, until finally I was asked to serve as President a few years ago.

I am so proud to be able to welcome Bricolage Academy Educators into our union family.

If I could offer you any advice, it would simply be: don’t be scared. You can only control what you can control- but what you can control is to remain united and stick together- that is where our strength has always been as educators


Wanda Richard,
President, United Teachers of New Orleans

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