INTERVIEWER: To begin, how did you become involved with NJSEA? And, further, what led to your acceptance of the Social Media Chair position?
MARIAH BELBER: I got involved on the state level during my freshman year. I volunteered at the NJEA convention in 2013 and afterwards joined as a state ambassador. I started the NJSEA Pinterest page two years ago and worked with other members to build resources on the site and get the Pinterest page to become more well known and visited. When the position for Social Media Chair arose, I took what seemed like a logical next step for me.
INTERVIEWER: I remember you really spearheading that Pinterest page when I first started working with the organization, and I commend you for all the work you’ve put into it. It seems that working with social media comes naturally for you, so what is the best thing about your chair position?
BELBER: Well, social media is really fun! It is great being able to use my position to connect all local chapters and the state level organization through sharing our awesome accomplishments, upcoming events, or articles and videos that members from different areas and ranks can comment and have a conversation about. I also really enjoy that through my position I have been able to connect with a lot of the active local chapter presidents and NJEA staff because I have truly learned so much from them.
INTERVIEWER: Would you say there are any downsides and tough aspects to your position?
BELBER: The toughest part would have to be how much it drains my phone’s battery! I had to charge my phone two or three times at the Convention this year! But, there are so many worthwhile moments to capture and share from various events, so in the end it’s all worth it – no matter how taxing it may be on my device.
INTERVIEWER: Sounds like you could use one of those portable chargers! I know your chair position encompasses many aspects – updating, making connections, informing, engaging a wide audience, and so on – but what do you hope to give back to NJSEA through your position as Social Media Chair and ambassador at state and local chapter levels?
BELBER: I hope that I can help grow NJSEA membership and inspire student members to get involved. I share information about specific local chapters, especially if it is an event that is open to other NJSEA local chapter members, and I create posts that aim to create conversation to show our great, diverse, and supportive community. Being involved with NJEA and the National Education Association (NEA), as this past October I accepted a national position on the NEA Student Advisory Committee of Student Members, has taught me so much, and I hope that all aspiring educators can experience what I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of. My goal is to express this feeling and inspiration through what I do in my chair position so I can leave NJSEA with ready, excited, and willing members that will help the organization rise strong.
INTERVIEWER: A great goal, indeed, and as I view your posts, I do get the sense that you want to show how much of a community NJSEA truly is. So, I must ask as you have such a passion for your chair position and the organization as a whole, do you have any plans to continue with a chair position or attain a different leadership role within NJSEA next year?
BELBER: As long as the next officers let me, I would love to continue as the Social Media chair next year. I have learned so much while working with the Communications Department at NJEA. This past summer I was able to attend the NJEA Summer Leadership Conference workshop “Social Media for Organizing,” which taught me a ton about the different tools available to me to help organize, engage, and grow NJSEA. I can’t wait to implement the ideas I have come up with.
INTERVIEWER: I know you are able to continue with NJSEA next year because it will be your graduate year, much like I am doing this year. I noticed for your undergraduate degree you have a minor in Environmental Sustainability Education, which seems timely as of late. Why did you choose this minor?
BELBER: I chose the Environmental Sustainability Education minor because of how relevant sustainability has become, so, as you mentioned, it is very timely and urgent. As an educator, my job is to teach my students to be productive members of society, and to do so, they need to know about and how to be responsible when it comes to the environment. As a human race we have taken advantage of all that we have been given, and teaching sustainability is so important because some of these students will go on to become engineers, activists, and lawmakers of the future that could make a difference. Unfortunately, we are seeing that many influential politicians do not believe that climate change is real. Teaching students to be sustainable will help demonstrate to students the kind of change and impact they have the power to create. My goal is to implement sustainability teachings in my classroom in STEM lessons, such as using upcycling, and in the classroom culture by modeling being a sustainable citizen myself.
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