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Virginia Journal of Education

‘We Can Do This—Together’

New VEA Executive Director Brenda Pike is on a mission to help members join together, step up, and make public education better for both students and educators.


You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who understands the ins and outs of a state education association better than new VEA Executive Director Brenda Pike. She’s been a high school English teacher and active Association member in Tennessee, a UniServ Director in the Volunteer State, a manager of UniServ Directors in Texas, and twice an Association executive director, in Indiana and Alabama.

When she began work at VEA in October, where she’ll oversee the work of more than 50 Association employees around the commonwealth, Dr. Pike also became the first woman to serve as executive director in our organization’s history.

Here are a few of her thoughts as she begins her VEA career:

ON PUBLIC EDUCATION. “It’s the great equalizer—or should be. I am most passionate about creating, preserving, and improving forward-thinking education policy that creates access and opportunity for all students regardless of who they are or where they live.”

ON THE ROLE OF THE VEA. The VEA is every member, spread out across our commonwealth, and I view the union as the most important advocate for the institution of public education, students, and our members. I have quite a bit of experience helping local members organize, build, and exercise their power, and I believe that here in Virginia there is not a single valid reason we can’t recruit and retain more members, win on the issues we need to win at the local or state level, and create capacity for even greater growth as time goes on.”

ON COLLECTIVE ACTION. “It all starts with local members and local associations. When groups of members take it upon themselves to make sure everybody in their worksite belongs to the union, they can use the power of that collective group of people to change the things that need changing at that worksite. To any who are troubled by the current reality in your school, I say: What is the reality you want your colleagues and your students to experience? And what are you willing to do to change that reality? If we lay the groundwork, every one of our local associations should be able to meet and confer with its school division and speak from a position of strength, because they are speaking with the authority of all school employees. Acting collectively works: I’ve experienced it as a teacher and union member and as a UniServ Director and as a manager and executive director in four states. People will join their local union when they believe that it will help them address the conditions they want to address—so that students can learn better and so we have better working conditions and compensation.”

ON HER TEACHING AND UNION BACKGROUND. I taught in a very small rural school district in western Tennessee. Weakley County has about 35,000 residents and maybe 26 faculty members in the school where I taught, and that included the principal. There are advantages to that; you get to know everyone. And we took it upon ourselves in the Weakley County Education Association to make sure that there wasn’t a single person in any of our buildings who did not know what our union did, what we stood for, and why it was important to belong. When a new teacher came into our school, we had three or four people talk to that person and share why they belonged to the WCEA. We’d talk about the things we cared about and find out what the new person cared about, too. And we always had a membership form filled out and ready to be signed.

We need to bring that human touch to every local association in Virginia.

ON THE FUTURE. Our only limits are the ones we’ve allowed to keep us down, to keep us silent, to close our door and do our jobs, and to try to cope alone rather than join with our colleagues and make the change we want to see.

You’re going to often hear me say, “You can do this!” You can. And we’ll do it together. VEA wants to change the world and we can do it, if we have enough people all working in the same direction.

Let’s see what educators in Virginia can do. I am very excited to be here with you to find out.

Dr. Pike’s educational background includes a B.A. from Union University in Jackson, TN, an M.S. from the University of Tennessee at Martin, and both an Ed.S and Ed.D from the University of Memphis.



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