Retired teacher and union leader Walt Munsterman was honored with the National Education Association’s 2021 Distinguished Service Award, the union’s highest honor.
“As I go back throughout the years, the NEA helped me become the individual I am today,” Munsterman said in his thank you remarks. “All the time and the trainings they spent made me a better leader.”
Munsterman received the award for his 40-plus years of activism this spring and was recognized at the NEA-Retired Annual Meeting in June.
“Walt has devoted his career to education and to education employees,” said Julie Jagusch, the current Education Minnesota Retired president, in her nomination letter for the award. “I know I owe a lot to Walt for his dedication. He has served as a role model for me.”
Munsterman’s career began as a teacher in Anoka-Hennepin, where he served as local union president and on the negotiations team. His union advocacy began when he worked on getting the right for collective bargaining for Minnesota public employees in the early 1970s.
He went on to serve as Negotiations Council Chairperson the Minnesota Education Association before serving as vice president of MEA for eight years.
“While serving in these positions, Walt actively supported many Minnesota locals in their negotiating efforts and walked the picket line with many striking locals,” said Jagusch.
Munsterman has attended more than 40 NEA Representative Assemblies and continues to attend events as an Education Minnesota Retired member.
“When the MEA and the Minnesota Federation of Teachers merged to form Education Minnesota in 1998, Walt helped to merge the two retired organizations into Education Minnesota Retired,” said Jagusch. “He served as the first president of Education Minnesota Retired, and then served again at a later time.”
Munsterman also serves on the American Federation of Teacher’s Retired Program and Policy Council, as well as the Minnesota AFL-CIO Retiree Council.
“As a member of both of these, he works toward improving the life of retired union members,” said Jagusch.
Munsterman, along with his wife Adele, also a retired educator, continue to be active in the Minnesota DFL party, especially in their local senate district.
“Walt’s focus in political work has always been centered around what is best for students, teachers, and public education,” said Jagusch.
As part of the award recognition, Munsterman read the NEA Mission Statement at the full NEA Representative Assembly at the event in July.