Home February-March 2023 Anderson’s longtime leadership brings stability, solidarity to Shakopee Education Association

Anderson’s longtime leadership brings stability, solidarity to Shakopee Education Association

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Education Minnesota’s “We Are One” award honors members or unions who embody the word solidarity, and the 2022 awardee Dale Anderson of Shakopee fits the award criteria in every way.

“It’s that whole idea of collective unity, collective thought and collective power that he really does a good job of harnessing,” said Katy Tabke, Shakopee Education Association’s local vice president and the one who nominated Anderson. “That idea of being better together. He really lives that every day and he embodies it. He shows all of our members what we can be when we work together.”

As the Shakopee Education Association local president, Dale Anderson (front row, center) has found numerous ways to get his members engaged in their local and statewide politics, as he knows how important it is to the future of public education.

Anderson has been president of the Shakopee Education Association for more than 20 years. He started in leadership after being an active teacher member and seeing that there was opportunities to help not only his colleagues, but the schools and students, in union leadership.

“The job of being a teacher is very difficult and it just continues to get more difficult,” Anderson said. “It feels like there’s more barriers and more things we have to overcome. More frustrations, more of all of those sorts of things, and fighting through that to help people understand that it’s a worthwhile thing that we’re doing and it’s meaningful. There’s arguably nothing more important for our democracy than public education.”

As a local president who is able to be out of the classroom with release time, Anderson spends a lot of time building and nurturing strong relationships with administration. Those relationships have been key in the last few years as Shakopee has not only dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic and teaching and learning changes because of it, but also significant budget cuts.

“Despite some rather difficult years and hard conversations in our district, Dale has encouraged thoughtful and proactive participation,” said Tabke in her nomination letter for the award. “In recent years, due to our budget shortfall, Shakopee lost 70 teachers; Dale passionately advocated for our staff needs, fought for those who were placed on leave, and sought creative solutions to a nearly impossible situation.”

The budget shortfalls were due to levy elections not passing, but when the time came for another vote in 2021, Anderson knew the work was the unions.

“Dale was at every phone bank, every meeting, and encouraged the most engagement from our membership in recent history,” said Tabke. “He is a true leader who seeks to encourage others, put in all his best work, and seeks no recognition. Our levy passed in major part to his actions to encourage members to activate.”

Dale Anderson worked tirelessly for the passage of a levy referendum in Shakopee in 2021 after a previous attempt had failed and left the district in a dire budget situation. Anderson organized phone banks and other numerous ways for teachers to support the levy passing, which it did.

Anderson also has been a leader in the district negotiations for decades.

While the district is working its way out of those budget cuts, Tabke said Anderson remains steadfast in his demands that teachers still receive improved pay and benefits.

Because of his relationships and vast negotiations experience, Anderson was also able to move through the ever-changing working conditions of the last few years in a way that made sure Shakopee teachers’ voices were heard.

“He is very good about saying, ‘OK, this is what I know. This is what I’m going to find out. Thank you for letting me know.’ And he comes back, usually with an answer or another way to discuss where the district is coming from,” said Amy Rutter, a Shakopee Education Association executive board member. “And he has been supportive of the emotional side of teaching as well.”

Anderson has prioritized member engagement and personal support in their local the last few years. He has planned social events and networking time for teachers across the district to connect and share with each other.

“When we socialize and get to know each other more, we become a stronger union,” said Rutter. “Not only for the stuff that unions represent, but also as members and him letting us know that he’s supporting us in every way.”

“The camaraderie that is created at those events really lends to people in our union working together and seeing how Dale can help them with issues that come up or how he can be supportive in anything that they need help with,” said Jamie Paulson, Shakopee Education Association treasurer.

Whether in his local, at the state level or especially in his intermediate organization, Anderson’s creative and steady approach to leadership shines.

“He makes you want to lead by example, just like Dale does,” said Wendy Drugge Wuensch, president of Burnsville Education Association. “I think Dale embodies a servant leadership-type president.”

Anderson says he isn’t done with union leadership yet and hopes to continue in his role, dedicating his time, energy and talents to the members of the Shakopee Education Association.

“It’s not just about the salaries and how the contract is constructed, but also being able to come alongside people who are in need or in crisis and to be able to provide support and be an encouragement. Those things are really important to me.”

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