Heading up Florida’s 140,000-member teacher’s union might seem like a long way from the classroom. But Andy Ford, ‘79, sees leading the Florida Education Association as just an extension of his love for teaching, and helping students.
As president of the organization, he represents school employees in Florida’s public schools, community colleges and universities.
“I became active in the union because I realized that educators need to have a united voice,” he said. “The union not only provides services at a local level for educators, but it also serves the greater role of securing educators a place at the table at state and local levels.”
After graduating from Flagler with degrees in elementary and secondary education, Ford began teaching in elementary schools on Jacksonville’s north side.
“Being a teacher was all I ever wanted to do and working with kids was very rewarding,” he said. “School wasn’t easy for me personally and I wanted to make things better for other kids and I believe I did.”
But Ford said he made the switch from the classroom to working with teachers’ unions when he realized he could help more students that way.
He joined the staff of Duval Teachers United in Jacksonville, before being elected president of the organization. He became vice president of the Florida Education Association, and then in 2003 was elected president. He is now serving his final term, which runs through 2015.
As president, he runs and manages the organization with its 100 employees in Tallahassee and 30 offices around the state.
“I lobby for strong pro-public school educational policy,” he said. “Education is a driver for our economy and our democracy. Public schools should always be a priority and there are no easy answers to the challenges facing teachers or students.”
He said the position allows him to continue to tackle issues that have always been important to him like helping out students living in poverty or whose first language isn’t English.
“Kids today face so many challenges that I never had to deal with growing up in the suburbs,” he said. “I taught in poor neighborhoods and saw firsthand the challenges of poverty. Poverty has a real impact on students and we need to provide the wrap-around service that students need to be successful.”
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Flagler College Magazine is published twice a year and sent to alumni, students, faculty and other members of the Flagler College community. It highlights the people, developments and accomplishments.
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