Justin Antos: Past, Present and Future

Justin Antos: Past, Present and Future

Justin Antos is a Fellow for the IEA Educator Voice Academies project.  Applications for EVA Fellowships have now opened for the 2024-25 school year. You can learn more and apply here.  He is sharing his story for the Opportunity Archive Project. The Opportunity Archive Project aims to collect stories about how our past has influenced our current and future racial, social and educational justice work. We believe these stories can help build solidarity and expand our collective vision for better futures. Here is Justin's story in his own words. 

"For the past 15 years, I have worked as a music teacher at Dwight D. Eisenhower High School in Blue Island, Illinois. Approximately 95% of Eisenhower students are from the BIPOC community, and almost 85% of our student population come from low-income households. Systemically, students from these demographics have been set up to fail. Schools that serve these demographics often spend less money per pupil due to egregious underfunding, have difficulty attracting and retaining teachers, and lack the means to provide the same type of quality instruction that exists in more affluent communities. Despite our best efforts to elevate and empower our students, teachers experience burnout in these environments at alarming rates. These individuals are forced to walk away from the students who desperately need them because these teachers are asked to do so much with so little. Public education is critical to a high-functioning, compassionate, and informed society; yet, the system is rigged to benefit the haves and create barriers to suppress the have nots.

As a music teacher, I have the privilege every year of performing with my students at events held at different schools all across Illinois. At nearly every venue, I hear consistently, “Why can’t we have this?” “It would be great if we had an auditorium like this!” “Look at all the instruments they have!” It breaks my heart that despite these students contributing so much to our community and having so much potential, their efforts almost always go unnoticed. To many, these students are just statistics. They are not going to perform in a beautiful auditorium at their school because our roof leaks. They are not going to receive new instruments because our school has doors that do not close properly. They will never be awarded in school with the opportunities to help them flourish because we are constantly navigating in survival mode. My students deserve more, and there are so many other students just like them who need people to fight to change the system to create more equitable paths to the finish line.

This year when working with Educator Voice Academies, I was introduced to like-minded educators who were fighting the same fight I was. Collaborating with these individuals and hearing their stories helped me discover different ways I could let my voice be heard to create better opportunities for my students. I met different UniServ directors across Illinois who informed me of how to channel my advocacy efforts most effectively in my union. This EVA cohort led me to become a more active building rep in my local association, invest in further training with the IEA’s Building Opportunity Coalition, and inspired me to go back to school and pursue an EdD in educational policy. I have become the person in my building that many people seek out to serve on equity committees and champion for student voice. I owe so much of this recognition to the EVA cohort. I now feel better equipped than ever to lead change for our marginalized populations of students and staff."

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