Meet Two Incredible Teachers from the Milwaukee Public School District

UNA-USA Education & Learning acknowledges UNA Milwaukee and the Milwaukee School District for internationalizing the curriculum. We honor this chapter and these teachers for innovations in learning in advance of World Teachers Day (October 5).

Partnerships with public schools are providing innovative solutions to reaching new audiences and educating communities about the vital work of the United Nations and UNA-USA. UNA Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Public School District are bringing unique content and learning experiences to teachers and students in Milwaukee and scaling international education to meet the growing needs of all students.

To celebrate these exemplary efforts, we tapped two incredible educators from the Milwaukee School District—who are also United Nations advocates and champions for the 2030 Agenda! Read our interview with Michelle Wade and Jennie Eckstein below.

Michelle Wade
Michelle Wade has been an educator in Milwaukee Public Schools for the past 29 years. During this time, she have served as a middle school teacher and administrator. She currently serves as the Manager of Social Studies in Curriculum and Instruction and Coordinator of our Learning Journeys program for the district.

Jennie M. Ekstein
Jennie M. Ekstein has been a Social Studies educator in Milwaukee Public Schools for 20 years. Her passion for learning and love of Global education drives her desire to create meaningful experiences for our youth.

World Teachers’ Day 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) that recognizes education as a key fundamental right and establishes an entitlement to free compulsory education, ensuring inclusive and equitable access for all children. How do you see the importance of the UDHR in relation to global education efforts?
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) provides a platform for Global Education efforts. When students use the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework within the platform of the UDHR they can find connections and have conversations about their rights, community and are able to become active citizens that work to make the world a better place. The UDHR is an opening to be part of something bigger than just aligning with basic education efforts, it allows students to use a language that tie them to other students around the world.

This year’s World Teachers’ Day theme, “The right to education means the right to a qualified teacher,” has been chosen to remind the global community that the right to education cannot be achieved without the right to trained and qualified teachers. What challenges do you see for teachers in our world today and how does your work attempt to address them?
Standardized testing along with societal pushes to level the learning for all students, have put teachers into situations where they are boxed in with required curriculum, time constraints with little to no creative opportunities to engage students in a dialogue that puts them in a meaningful place in this world. Creating a curriculum that accomplishes the performance standards while giving students choice and voice allows teachers to become a part of the conversation.  Qualified teachers can and will facilitate student creativity using academic skills they need to have to be successful now and beyond formal education.

To reach the 2030 Education Goals of universal primary and secondary education, the world needs to recruit almost 69 million new teachers. What do you think global thought leaders and world leaders can do to address this issue?
World leaders need to elevate the status of and importance of teachers. If all people should have access to a free education, then the value should not be put on quantity but the quality of teachers. The current education professional can not compete with other industry for pay and working conditions. World leaders need to come together with solutions on how to lift-up the teaching profession through competitive wages and increased morale.

What inspires you to change lives and be a teacher by profession?
It always feels cliché to answer this question because most answers are always similar, “it’s a calling”, to “impact future generations,” “It’s a passion” or even “to advocate for others”. These things are true, but we teach because of all the good and bad things that come from the profession. These things impact us personally and as much as our students are impacted by us. It’s a give and take professional relationship. All stakeholders are affected by one another at a much deeper level. We work together, we problem solve, and we have conversations that express the desire to open the lens of possibilities and opportunities for all people to be successful in this world.

How do you think education transforms lives? How has the UN’s work helped in this transformation?
We like to think that if “you know better, you do better!” Students, especially in the middle grades, are often so very focused on their lives, their clothes and their friends. As students study the work of the United Nations and all the people who need and receive help, their own needs seem small. Students start to see how they can change the world.

To learn more about World Teachers’ Day, click here.