“This Is Our Time to Shine and Really Send a Message.”

Why Anne Arundel County teacher Sebastian Serrano lobbies his legislators

A group of TAAAC educators meet together for discussion at a local restaurant in Annapolis before heading up the street to speak with legislators.

Meeting to speak with our elected officials is a powerful tool in affecting legislation and establishing pro-public education laws and policies. Throughout the legislative session, MSEA members gather weekly in Annapolis to meet with legislators and fight for the issues that matter the most to our schools and students. Interested in lobbying? Your local association likely organizes at least one lobby trip to Annapolis each year. Contact your local association to find out when and where lobby nights are planned.

We’ll be highlighting member-lobbyists throughout the session and sharing what they’re passionate about. Below is the first interview of the series with Anne Arundel County AP Physics and ESOL Matter and Energy teacher Sebastian Serrano.

Who are you going to meet with tonight?

This is my first time here. I’ve spoken to the Board of Ed a number of times, as well as to the County Council and County Executive a couple of times. I’ve also spoken to the County Executive’s Secretary of Education. So I’m starting to get familiar with some of the players. Whomever I have the opportunity to talk with, I’d be happy to do so.

What is your message?

I originally got into this because I wanted to defend my students. I care very much about my ESOL students as well as everyone who walks into my classroom for AP Physics. I need to protect their opportunity to have a consistent classroom with experienced teachers. Now, experienced teachers are not strictly people who have been in the game 30 years, they are also people like me, a third-year teacher, trying to become experienced. The only way that you can maintain experienced teachers is if you keep their salary competitive.

I’m also here to advocate to protect my students. I’m always going to be here for extra help. I’m always going to help write letters of recommendation. I’m always going to be a mentor. So they are by far the number one priority. But part of that is making sure that when rent goes up, so does salary. And when the car catches on fire, I’m able to cover that. (Both of those things have happened by the way!) So I’m at a point where I really have to advocate for myself and make sure that my chance to thrive in the classroom — and therefore help hundreds of people down the road — is maintained.

Why is it important that legislators hear from educators?

Policy affects how we go about doing our job. I know people who are working in PhD programs or Higher Ed policy, and one friend is taking a class with Governor Dukakis, who teaches the class. He shared a story about how Governor Dukakis said, “Well, if you have an organization with a problem, what’s the first thing you do?” And he ran through his mind all of these different networking algorithms you should do to try to fix situations. But before he got to say it, Governor Dukakis said, “Talk to them.” Then my friend said, “Oh yeah! I overcomplicated it. You should just talk to the people.” So, I would think that a legislator who wants to make education better would take that advice and talk to educators to understand what type of policy makes sense.

What would you say to your colleagues to encourage them to come out and lobby?

This is our time. This is our time to shine and really send a message. I think that we really captured a lot of positive energy over the weekend [at the Women’s March on Washington]. Here’s our chance to capitalize. We have a right as U.S. citizens to meet with our legislators. So let’s do it! What on Earth is holding you back?