Whenever I see the red shirts in support of adult education worn by our students and faculty at the San Mateo Adult School on Tuesdays, I think of Cynthia Eagleton. Perhaps I do so because as a new administrator at San Mateo Adult School back in 2014, Cynthia first introduced herself to me wearing the red shirt and explained to me the school’s Tuesday tradition of “Wear Red in Support of Adult Ed.”
The San Mateo’s Federation of Teachers Union, AFT Local 4681, established the tradition in the days of categorical flexibility, when adult school funding was slashed statewide and fiscal control of the budget taken out of the hands of the adult schools. The red shirts represented a concrete visual, a colorful show of the strength in numbers of the supporters of adult education in their fight to restore equitable funding and services to its students.
Cynthia, herself, has served as the San Mateo’s Federation of Teachers Union Vice President and Secretary. She began her career at San Mateo Adult School in 1998. She says adult education was actually her second career, and over the years she has taught in the ESL, Parent Education, and Older Adult Programs and is currently teaching Distance Learning to ESL Students.
As creator and editor of the San Mateo Adult School Blog, Cynthia has contributed immensely to building a positive school culture on our campus, and the blog has become a forum to inform and inspire students as well as to share their success stories. The blog also encourages student advocacy and civic participation, and includes articles on immigrant rights, fair and affordable housing, GREEN and environmental sustainability, and adult education policy.
Advocacy, whether on campus or in the larger community, has been a passion for Cynthia. She credits the efforts and activism of her colleagues at San Mateo Adult School and her work with her fellow union representatives and leaders as catalysts for positive change. “It’s been a joint effort at our school,” she says.
In support for adult education policy over the years, she has coordinated advocacy efforts with other educators throughout the state, including CCAE State Board and Bay Section leadership. Cynthia has worked closely with Kristen Pursley of West Contra Costa Adult School, editor of Save Your Adult School Blog, and with Karen Arthur of Oxnard Adult School, editor of Alliance for California Adult Schools. Cynthia also edits her own blog, Adult Education Matters. Cynthia believes that taking initiative and working with others increases the power and collective impact of advocacy. She has pushed to include teacher and student voices in the dialogue with educational leaders and government legislators. “Their voices are important in creating policy,” she says.
Today, thanks to the tireless work of advocates for adult education, like Cynthia, direct funding for adult education has been restored under the California Adult Education Program. The red shirts, now worn at schools, conferences, and rallies in support of adult education across the state have become a powerful symbol of the impact of adult education advocacy, and they also serve as a reminder of the advocacy that still needs to be continued.
Submitted by Eric Saavedra
CCAE Bay Section President
San Mateo Adult School