Spotlight on Locals: Manitowoc Education Association

WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen (fourth from right) presents the Manitowoc Education Association leaders with the WEAC Strong Local Affiliate Certificate. Manitowoc Education Association President, Michelle Preussler, holds the certificate.

By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President

“The strength of the Manitowoc Education Association is the dedication of people willing to be involved as officers and building representatives,” Mark Filer told me. Mark is the Vice President of the Manitowoc Education Association and a 9thgrade science teacher at Washington Jr. High. “We have a core group of people who continue to move our local forward.”

Michelle Preussler, 3rdgrade teacher at Stangel Elementary and returning President of the MEA, echoed that sentiment: “Our strong, core group of people get us through because they are dependable, honest, and hardworking. I am so fortunate to work with such a strong group.”

The MEA has maintained its role as an advocate for students and colleagues. “We keep an open dialogue with the school district, and our voices are in the forefront, our ideas are taken into consideration when decisions are made,” Michelle said. “We have worked to stay relevant in the eyes of our school board and upper level administration. We have built relationships with our district, our families, our colleagues, and our community. We speak at school board meetings, and the MEA is certainly not going to fade away.”

Mark pointed out how members and potential members continue to certify their local every year. “We care about education and making Manitowoc a great school district for kids. MEA members understand the big picture of what we are striving for: the importance of public education and how the union gives us a voice in what matters for our students and classrooms. People join the Manitowoc Education Association because they want to be a part of something that is bigger than them.”

One more area of strength in Manitowoc is the local’s history. Michelle said, “I was fortunate enough to be hired in Manitowoc where a strong union exists and learn so much from the leaders who came before me, like Bob Jome. I didn’t know a thing about this work, and, as true teachers do, they taught me. I will forever be grateful for their mentorship.”

When I asked Michelle about advice for a struggling local, she said, “Start small with a core group of people that you trust and build from there. If you can connect with the people you know well and talk with them personally about the work that you are doing, they will buy in. And, remember, you won’t move mountains all at once; set small goals and build from those goals.”

Michelle is most proud of the MEA’s history of representation. “Members can count on us and they trust us. If they call, we’ll have their back. Members of Manitowoc Education Association know that we’ll go to the wall for them because we’ve proven that time and time again. Our members have confidence in us.”

Read all of Peggy’s ‘Spotlight On Locals’ columns at weac.org/Spotlight.