Frederick SPARKS Connects Educators with Their Union

Before I was a SPARKS myself, I didn’t know that I was a union member,” Casey Keenan says. “Once I knew that I could make a difference and that my voice could be heard, I was all in.” Keenan is the fire under the red hot Frederick County Teachers Associa­tion’s SPARKS program — one of sever­al in the state that focuses specifically on linking educators to their union in relatively small groups of 10–20. For many educators, SPARKS is the first time they really connect their profes­sion, their voice, and their union to the influence and clout they have in improving their jobs and profession. As Keenan says: “I work very hard for my union. However, I am only one person. I knew the best way to help was to create an army, and SPARKS does that.”

This year’s Frederick SPARKS group in Annapolis.

FCTA’s SPARKS brings these teachers together Thursday evening through Saturday afternoon and gives them the op­portunity to talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly of being an educator and digs deep into the resources and opportuni­ties that can support them. On the agenda for FCTA’s April SPARKS event were sessions from the professional to the personal, including blended learning, flexible seating, how to integrate technology into instruction, personalized learning for students, financial planning, and stress management — espe­cially home/work life balance.

FCTA has offered SPARKS for nearly 10 years and some say inducting the next generation of activists has helped the Fred­erick union grow in strength and influence. “It’s a great time to connect with members and really get to know them,” says Missy Dirks, president of FCTA. “I can’t help but be newly energized by their passion for our profession.”