Tyler Hunt: Past, Present and Future

Tyler Hunt: Past, Present and Future

Tyler Hunt is an amazing IEA educator and a member of the IEA Human & Civil Rights Committee. 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 Tyler's story:

"My name is Tyler Hunt and I currently teach in the school district I attended from kindergarten to high school. When I started teaching in 2019, I was 23 and the only Black teacher in my building. Most of the educators I grew up with were Black and they gave so much support and love through my undergraduate years and job interview process. Starting my first job without any other teachers who looked like me felt like being dropped off at college; I knew I was on my own. I started off teaching third grade and it was amazing! My students were ethnically and linguistically diverse and their parents were super supportive and encouraging while I navigated my first year. I loved my job but there was something missing.

In October 2019, I had only been teaching for two months and my colleague had mentioned going to a teacher’s union event. My mom briefly worked in CPS when I was younger and encouraged me to join the union when I started teaching. I paid my dues and only thought the union could help me keep a job and transfer to a new building if needed. My colleague told me about EMELT and I was sold! I couldn’t believe there were going to be other Black teachers that I could meet and mingle with while also getting leadership training. On top of that, I applied for a funding scholarship and attended the conference at no cost; which was very helpful in my first year.

Attending EMELT was life changing! I was overjoyed seeing other Black educators who were doing great things for their schools and communities in Illinois. They welcomed me with open arms and told me I would be great. I hadn’t heard words of affirmation like that from any Black educators that weren’t my family and it suddenly hit me; this is what was missing. I needed the support of Black educators to help me navigate education. I no longer felt isolated. I left that weekend with business cards, pages of notes, and memories to last a lifetime. Most importantly, I was determined to keep teaching and to keep finding Black teachers to connect with. The following month, I got the opportunity to attend the Minority/Women’s Leadership training in Los Angeles, California fully funded by the NEA; words couldn’t capture my excitement. This leadership training helped me to see that education was larger than my classroom and my district. This training also empowered me to speak about historical inequities and institutional racism within education. I knew this was happening but being around that group of people at that time helped me to see that my voice mattered and was needed. I came back to Illinois ready to lend my voice and experience. In January 2020, I was full of passion and started taking educational equity PD’s in my district and signed up to start my masters degree. When COVID hit a few months later, all the training and empowerment I got through the union and my district prepared me to stand tall for educational equity. I continued my learning and need for community by attending virtual union events and signed up for leaders for just schools in 2021; ultimately completing 3 levels of training. Each session I took served as evidence that I wasn't crazy for seeing inequities and that I wasn’t alone in standing against them.  

In 2022, I finally got to attend my first in-person NEA-RA in my hometown where I saw and felt the power that educators bring to education. Seeing the sum of us and so many like-minded educators gave me more reassurance that I’m right where I need to be in education. As a proud union member and active participant, I would encourage all educators to sign up, inquire, and participate! There is a place for you here! There are people who can walk alongside you and push you toward greatness. Getting active in my local and state union has given me countless memories, friends, and strategies to advance racial and social justice in education. I’m now in my second year as an IEA Human and Civil Rights Committee member and couldn’t imagine a career without the knowledge, resources, support, and collective power of IEA."


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