By Patrick Yeagle
When Cinda Klickna first started teaching in 1973, it was a yearly event for teachers to be pulled out of their classrooms in April, handed a pink slip and told to continue teaching until the end of the year.
"We waited all summer to know whether we were going to be rehired," she said. "We didn't have many rights at the time."
It was that experience which pushed Klickna to get involved in the Illinois Education Association's legislative advocacy efforts as a summer intern in 1981. About two years later, she witnessed the implementation of collective bargaining for teachers in the 1983-1984 school year. Her work with the union led her to become president of IEA in 2011, and now she's retiring in July after decades of education advocacy.
IEA announced on April 3 that delegates elected new officers at the group's 163rd Representative Assembly held in Chicago from March 30 to April 1. Chosen to succeed Klickna is Kathi Griffin, an elementary school teacher from Schaumburg who is serving her second term as IEA vice president.
In 1988, a few years after her first legislative experience, Klickna began serving on the IEA board of directors. Then came two stints as president of the Springfield Education Association - the local branch of IEA - from 1991 to 1997 and from 2003 to 2005. During that time, Klickna also served on the National Education Association's board of directors from 1994 to 2000.
As a teacher, Klickna says she is most proud of two things: being nominated for the Horace Mann Educator of the Year Award in 2002 and an extensive project her students in 1997 and 1998 undertook to build family trees for every grave marker in a circa-1800s cemetery near SangChris Lake. The resulting research from that project became a book that the students donated to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Regarding her work with the union, Klickna says she is most proud of the partnerships IEA has built with communities. Currently, the group is working to address "adverse childhood experiences" like abuse or neglect which can stymie educational progress. IEA is part of a statewide Partnership for Resilience aimed at finding ways to help children overcome such experiences.
Klickna says she has been motivated by the desire to improve public education and has been energized by the students and teachers she represents.
"I've tried to educate the community and the state that the union really is working for students and teachers and our community," she said.
Klickna laments that state lawmakers haven't passed legislation to change how school funding is calculated and disbursed.
"We're still just talking about rearranging the deck chairs," she said, "instead of talking about our vision of education and what people want out of our schools."
Although she is retiring, Klickna says she's not done fighting.
"I doubt my voice is ever going to stop," she said. "It just wont be in my capacity as president."
Contact Patrick Yeagle at [email protected].