AFT honors heroes who helped students stand up to gun violence

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The educators of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., were honored with the AFT’s Heroes Award during the Saturday afternoon general session. On Feb. 14, 2018, 14 students and three educators lost their lives at the school, and more were injured. “While many of our union colleagues from Stoneman Douglas heroically put their lives on the line that day, it is just as inspiring to see how they continue to protect and stand up for their students,” said AFT Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker during the presentation. “From vigils, marches and rallies to voter registration drives, the guiding hands of the Stoneman Douglas educators are helping their students stand up for themselves and reach out to students in other communities experiencing gun violence, to help them have a voice too.”

Mei-Ling Ho-Shing and Marjorie Stoneman Douglas teachers

Marjory Stoneman Douglas educators Diana Haneski and Greg Pittman accepted the award on behalf of their fellow educators at the school. “We remember and get strength from our 17 fallen eagles,” said Haneski. “We are MSD strong, and we all need to be teacher strong.”

“I want to say that this award in courage is for every teacher here in Pittsburgh and around the country,” said Pittman, “because you place yourselves in harm’s way every day without the security you need, the materials and resources you need, and without the proper pay you deserve. It is time that our elected officials start to demonstrate courage to address school safety, proper resources and the pay you deserve. Speak up, register to vote, and vote for change on Nov. 6, 2018.”

The need for change was also on the mind of Mei-Ling Ho-Shing, a student at Stoneman Douglas. Ho-Shing came to Pittsburgh to thank her teachers and urge them to continue inspiring their students to demand change. “We demand change because you taught us well. We have become the glory of our nation because you taught us to speak up and speak out,” Ho-Shing said. “Let my voice be multiplied by millions of students around the country and around the world when I say: Teachers, I love you, I need you and I thank you. I ask that my teachers continue to stand with me and guide this youth-led movement toward necessary and radical change.”

As she ended her speech to delegates, Ho-Shing asked for a moment of silence for people who have lost their lives to gun violence. 

[Adrienne Coles; photo by Elliott Cramer]