Standing united

. October 26, 2012.

You think you have troubles!     
Imagine being a union leader in a state where money is scarce and willingness to change is scarcer. Britt Satchwell doesn’t have to imagine. For the past three years, he’s served as the president of the Ann Arbor Education Association. His term ended in June.     

Responsible advocate
Satchwell said his primary responsibility was acting as an advocate for members’ wages, benefits and working conditions. Promoting the latest and best practices for teaching was another goal.     
“My personal view of unionism is it should aspire to a higher aspect — unions as a force for good, for social justice,” said Satchwell. He didn’t dream of negotiating contracts as a child. “I was dragged kicking and screaming to the union,” he said. A friend first convinced him to become a teacher after he sold his financial investment firm. “[My friend] marched me down to [enroll in] education school,” he said. “I kept going and got my master's.” Satchwell earned his teaching certificate in 1992 and his master's degree in the art of teaching in 1996. His fellow instructors encouraged him to take up his union post.     

“They came to me and said, ‘We’re tired of the way we are represented.’ They wanted fighting to be the last resort,” Satchwell said. “I am working hard to give examples of models where everyone has to take ‘yes’ for an answer. We just have to calm down and get everyone to listen.’     Helping others is important to Satchwell , “I’ve always been a ‘lets make the world better guy,” he said. “My first political rally was at 10 years old. I wore a cub scout uniform.”     Ideas for change

Education is one area that is especially slow to change, he said. “That’s where unions should be heading,” he says. “You should bail the boat, fix the boat and steer the boat.” Satchwell fears a failure to make those changes to the educational system could lead to disaster. “If things continue, push will come to shove and things will collapse,” he said. “When people get to that point, there will be change. But it’s usually messy.”     Instituting objective teacher evaluations with individualized professional development, a school year that continues through the summer but with more frequent two-week vacations and a dedication to innovative uses of technology are a just a few of the changes he would make. Now that his days as a union leader have ended, Satchwell said he will teach social studies to sixth and seventh graders at Tappan Middle School in Ann Arbor.

What are his plans until he takes up his new post in September?     
“I’m like most teachers in the summer, ready to do nine months of laundry,” he said, laughing.