Celebrating our 2015 MEA-MFT Members of the Year!

 Dave Shively  Eden Dias
 Kyla Gardiner  Renne't Sarbu

Every year, MEA-MFT honors members who have a profound impact on their profession, the Montana people they serve, and our union. They are people with the unwavering willingness to step up and say “yes.”

This spring, MEA-MFT celebrated its 2015 Members of the Year at a gala dinner in Helena, as part of our annual Representative Assembly.

Eden Dias, Education Support Professional of the Year

As a paraeducator in Whitefish, Eden Dias has worked with children with a variety of disabilities in all grade levels. She now works at the elementary level, helping some of the most behaviorally challenging students with math and reading.

“No matter who it is, you see progress,” she said. “Suddenly they’ve got it; they’re reading when they weren’t before. Inside you’re cheering.”

As president of her local union, Dias has transformed it into a powerhouse by getting members more engaged in the union and reaching out to the community.

“The union is not a fee-for-service organization, it’s a family,” said MEA-MFT member Kelly Haverlandt, introducing Dias at the celebration. “Eden has been a vital part of growing our family of active members.”

Renne’t Sarbu & Kyla Gardiner: Public Employee Members of the Year

“Standing up for coworkers at every turn; using their skills, knowledge, and leadership to build power in the workplace; juggling the critical state services they provide in their day jobs; and being leaders in their locals the other 16 hours a day is no easy feat,” said MEA-MFT staffer Morgan Smith, introducing Renne’t Sarbu and Kyla Gardiner at the gala.

“Renne’t and Kyla are superstars.”

Gardiner and Sarbu are both leaders in their local unions as well as team members in MEA-MFT’s major project to strengthen our state employee locals.

Over the past two years they have knocked on hundreds of coworkers’ doors, made hundreds of phone calls, and held countless one-on-one meetings to help resolve members’ issues on the job.

Gardiner, who works at the state Dept. of Revenue, told the celebration crowd that when she was asked to serve on her local union’s executive board eight years ago, “little did I know it would change my life. I can’t say how hard someone else is willing to fight for my cause, but I do know how hard I will fight for theirs.”

Sarbu works for the Dept. of Public Health and Human Services.  “I look forward to continuing to strengthen our union by building up our membership,” she said. “Without them, we won’t grow to become the ‘force to be reckoned with.’ All together, stronger together!”

Dave Shively, Faculty Member of the Year

Dr. Dave Shively knows Montana’s college and university students deserve top-quality faculty. And he knows the way to get there is to organize and advocate for faculty.

Shively is a professor of geography at the University of Montana, Missoula. He is president of his local union, the University Faculty Association. He also chairs MEA-MFT’s Coalition of Union Faculty, a group that builds ties among local faculty unions on Montana’s campuses.

“Dave has established tremendous rapport with his fellow faculty members, the Board of Regents, and the Commissioner of Higher Education’s office,” said MEA-MFT Executive Director Erik Burke.

“Montana can’t succeed without high quality higher education, and Dave has advanced that cause in a major way.”