Educational Context

I have been in the field of education for the past 12 years. I began my career as an early childhood educator and taught in a laboratory preschool at Montana State University. Upon completion of my undergraduate degree, I pursued an interest in advocacy and public policy and received my post-graduate degree in public administration. I accepted a position as the coordinator for a distance-learning program that provided an opportunity to engage with tribal communities throughout Montana. I became actively involved in early childhood and education advocacy in the Gallatin Valley as well as in Montana State through the Gallatin Valley Early Childhood Community Council and the Montana Early Childhood Higher Education Consortium and supported the creation of an early childhood path to licensure and developing access to early childhood education for all families. The University of Washington offered an opportunity to further my education in a teacher preparation program focused on issues of equity and academic excellence and provided field-based instruction in diverse, poverty impacted communities. I taught for three years at a large elementary school located adjacent to a military base.

I currently teach 1st grade in Belgrade, Montana. Our district resides in a suburban/rural community with approximately 10,000 people that is growing at an exponential pace. Our district has approximately 3,500 students and is the only district that has grown from a class C to a AA school in the state. Our district is predominantly white (84%) with approximately 16% non-white students. Our EL program currently serves 90 students. 40% of our students receive free or reduced lunch. Our local union, the Belgrade Education Association, has approximately 54% membership. I joined our local union when I began teaching in Belgrade and became our building representative my second year in the district. I participated in our contract negotiations during my second year in Belgrade. I am currently the elected BEA president and am active in attending state and regional association professional development and meetings. I believe strongly in the important work done by our union to advocate for safe and fair working conditions for our employees, and also believe in the importance of advocating for public education, educators, and our students.

Connecting Self Assessment to Context

How does awareness of your own biases, experiences of privilege, and personal values inform your chosen Capstone Project?

I am a white, cis-genderd woman who has experienced privilege in many ways. I also hold my own biases and values that might not be consistent or align with the values of all stakeholders. I am a relatively young teacher, so I actively seek to hear the perspectives of those with more experience with education and who hold historical knowledge within our district and community. In order to be an effective leader, I feel it is important to constantly work to be aware of my own biases, privileges and values to ensure I am continuing to lead with a mind towards compassion, advocacy and service rather than with ego or for my own individual advantage.

Overarching Competency Number One: Interpersonal Effectiveness - Developing

My vision is for our local members to come together and mobilize with a strong show of force to advocate for respect, professionalism, pay, and working conditions within the district. I was elected president of our local union in the spring of 2021. Prior to that, I had worked to establish relationships with the local union leadership team as well as our district administration. I had worked to identify myself as a knowledgeable and competent advocate for our educators. I would say that I began this year in the developing stage as I have sought out leadership opportunities including acting as union president and have worked to establish some relationships by reaching out and listening to colleagues’ and members’ concerns and working to address those concerns with leadership.

Overarching Competency Number Two: Communication - Emerging

I believe that most problems that arise can be drilled down to a breakdown in communication. As a union member, I felt that the communication coming from our local union leadership was lacking. The lack of communication was exacerbated during the pandemic which led me to become more actively involved so I could be aware of the actions the union was taking in regards to working conditions and other issues during the pandemic. When I began this year, I feel my skills in communication were at the emerging level as I had just taken on my new role as BEA president. I spent some time working to establish an accurate list of our member contact information, but had not yet established a consistent means of communication.

Foundational Competency: Collaborate purposefully - Developing

An important aspect of my role as union president is to ensure that I am collaborating purposefully with all stakeholders. This includes an understanding of the unique and diverse perspectives of our educators, membership, district administration, and board of trustees. Our certified employee group is diverse in many ways which includes experience, gender, ethnicity, professional training and background, professional focus, and political beliefs. I feel that I have developed an appreciation and acceptance of that diversity and am working on creating opportunities for all to contribute their perspectives.

Association Leadership: Organizing and Advocacy - Developing

Our local union engagement has been declining in the past 3-4 years. As the current union president, I would like to ensure our current members are engaged and work to grow our membership. To do this, I feel that our members need to feel that their voice matters and that we are advocating for them on their behalf. At the start of TLI, I had been an active participant in numerous union work as a building representative and on our negotiations team. This year, I took on the role of union president. I started the year by holding monthly meetings with district administration, ensure that I am present and active during our board meetings, and have been working to show a strong presence within our district. Our union currently has a positive working relationship with our district. I would like to grow that relationship to our greater community as well as within our state.

Connecting Assessment of Diverse Stakeholders to Context

Describe your work with diverse stakeholders, shared learning experiences, and how you anticipate your leadership pathway mindset might evolve during the TLI process.

I have consistently sought opportunities to engage with diverse stakeholders in various capacities throughout my professional career. I have worked in early education advocacy and policy which provided me an opportunity to work with early educators, higher educators, individuals with the Office of Public Instruction, and legislators. As a teacher, I have had the opportunity to teach in urban districts, a predominantly military family populated school, and in a rural/suburban district. All these experiences have provided me with an opportunity to see others' unique perspectives and work to find common ground. In much of this work, I was a participant, but not a “leader.” I believe that my mindset will shift during the TLI process as I take on a more active leadership role and work to develop my voice as an advocate for educators and education.

Describe how your awareness of those from different cultures, experiences, and backgrounds inform your chosen project.

In regards to association organizing and advocacy, I believe it is important to not only think about our current members, but our potential members, other district support staff, district administration, trustees, and our greater community. My chosen project is focused on growing our union membership by strengthening our impact and relationship within the district and through more intentional and robust communication. This means that I need to be aware of the experiences and backgrounds of all the above mentioned individuals which includes taking into account the different experiences, professional knowledge, culture, gender, age, and political leanings.

Capstone Approval Form

Becky Croghan 2022 Final Approval.pdf