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Q&AWITH SID CHAPMAN www.gae.org | 13 Q: What are GAE’s greatest strengths? A: We’re a member-driven organization. We’re under the umbrella of the largest teacher association in the country, the National Education Association, with 3 million members nationwide and resources and political strength in Washington, D.C. We’re an educators’ organization that gets involved politically and seeks out public-education friendly legislators. We educate the public about teachers because they’re often voting against their best interests and their children’s interests for those who claim to be education-friendly. We want them to look at their politicians’ report cards and how they vote. Q: What are your strengths starting as GAE president? I have a lot of experience in the classroom and with leadership, and I understand the political landscape. I articulate the message well, and public speaking is not a problem for me. I’m also a visionary who sets my mind to a goal and accomplishes it. I believe that educators can make a difference, and I believe solidarity and collective action make a difference. I want to see a positive change for public education in this state. Q: What is your leadership style? Some consider me assertive and others say I’m laid back. I think I’m a laid back person who tries to have humor in what I do. I’d say I’m someone who believes in what I’m doing, and this came through in Clayton County — even my adversaries respected me and what I believed. I’ve been a face for public education for so long that through the good and bad, the attacks and the personal blows, I keep going. Q: What interested you in education? I remember being a good student, though I think I talked a lot in class. I went through a trying time in my teen years where I had a health problem that caused me turmoil, and I dropped out of high school. I went back to school and completed my GED and then earned my bachelor’s degree. I’ve been a big proponent of GED and taught adult literacy in the 1990s. I worked in mental health in Clayton County for some time and then went into education as a substitute teacher, bus driver and paraprofessional as I earned my teacher’s certificate and master’s degree. I started teaching and then earned my Doctor of Education, going from GED to EdD. Q: What are your hobbies? I like to travel and someday want to visit Europe — particularly England, Ireland and Scotland because of my heritage. I vacationed in Cancun recently and enjoyed the Mayan ruins in Mexico. I’ve been all over the U.S. and enjoy Washington D.C. for the politics and Philadelphia for history and Boston for the Freedom Trail. I love history. Franklin Delano Roosevelt is my favorite president because of what he did during the Great Depression and World War II. Despite adversity in his life, he didn’t let it stop him. Q: What else should we know about you outside of GAE? I was born and raised in Barnesville and have lived in Griffin for the last 19 years. My grandmother, who was a big influence in my life, was a big fan of Sidney Lanier and named me after him. I’m also a people person. I enjoy spending time with my siblings, nephews, nieces and church family. I’m a part-time pastor at Faith United Methodist Church in Riverdale and play organ and piano. Q: What do you want to be known for as GAE president? I want to be remembered as someone who was faithful to the cause of public education. If I turn the tide, then I would have succeeded. I lost my mother last year, almost 88, and she wanted to see me achieve this. She was an inspiration to me, and I hope she approves.


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