Woodbridge, NJ – This week, President of the Wayne Education Association (WEA) Eda Ferrante won the inaugural Elizabeth A. Allen Women in Education Award from the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA).
According to the NJEA’s criteria for nomination: “The award nominee must be an active or retired NJEA member or staff member or an individual living or working in New Jersey who promotes women’s rights and equality for all persons, particularly in education.”
Ferrante was nominated by the Vice President of the WEA, Kerrian Palmieri, who brought the nomination to the President of the Passaic County Education Associations (PCEA). “When I first heard about this award,” said Palmieri, “my immediate thought was that Eda epitomizes everything that this award represents. I have never met a fiercer advocate for women and the challenges they face.”
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In her recommendation letter, PCEA President Susan Butterfield wrote this about Ferrante:
“Eda has an established history of advocacy that often shakes up the stereotype of a ‘woman educator’ and furthers the legacy of Elizabeth A. Allen.”
“Recent challenges in Wayne continued to test Eda’s mettle–yet, she has emerged as an even stronger advocate for education professionals.”
“It is her history and experience in advocacy, coupled with personal conviction that continues to grow which makes Eda Ferrante an exemplar for women everywhere and deserves the Elizabeth A. Allen Women in Education Award.”
Butterfield refers to the Full-Time Release issue as the ‘recent challenges in Wayne.’ See Story Here. This issue, that began at the end of August of 2019 and continued through mid-October, put Ferrante in the spotlight and showed a woman who stood toe-to-toe with the Wayne School District and never backed down.
“I’m very grateful that my local and my county recognized my leadership skills and the work that I do on behalf of women and education in general,” said Ferrante. “I was very honored, but I didn’t really think I would win. I didn’t realize that what I do has an effect on women every day.”
Ferrante received a mug as a Christmas present from a friend. The mug read: Empowered Women Empower Women. “The mug is a reminder to me. It helps me be more cognizant that my example can set the tone for other women,” said Ferrante. “For me, I’m just doing my job. Every day I try to do the right thing for all my teachers, but I don’t always realize the impact I have on other women and how they look at me.”
As a single mother Ferrante worries that with all the work she does, she’s missing out on time with her daughter during her formative years. “My friends remind me that my daughter is learning from me. She’s learning what a strong woman can do and the mark that can be made and the impact she can have on the world. I am setting an example for her and for other women teachers who may feel that they are disempowered. Its humbling to think that through my everyday activities I am showing them how powerful they all can be.”
Sean Spiller is the Vice President of the NJEA and the former President of the WEA. He had this to say about Ferrante: “I’ve worked alongside Eda for a long time, and I’ve always been so impressed with her leadership skills. She’s a fearless advocate who never backs down in the face of adversity. She richly deserves this honor.”
Ferrante received her award at the Human and Civil Rights Celebration during the NJEA Equity Alliance weekend conference in Woodbridge.
During her acceptance speech, Ferrante began by talking about the struggles of Elizabeth A. Allen, the first female NJEA president who served from 1913 to 1914.
“Elizabeth Allen’s story is one of determination and persistence,” she said. “It is one of high moral character and emotional strength. She fought when the climate was not so accepting of women taking leadership positions. It was a time when women were expected to assume reduced and often subservient roles in our country. But she would not be deterred. She would not be denied when others sought to impede the struggle for the rights of those considered the other in society.”
Ferrante spoke of the “Giants” in her life whose shoulders she stands upon. Her mother and father, aunts and role models such as Hillary Clinton, NJEA President Marie Blistan and NJEA Vice President, and former WEA President, Sean Spiller.
“I am convinced that the 21st Century will go down as the century of the woman,” continued Ferrante during her speech. “Where women all over our world will be a force to be reckoned with. Where they will lose their chains that bind them to positions of subservience. Where all society will recognize their true value and equality. Where the talents and skills of women will be globally recognized. And where in America, women will be able to look back at the long struggle for equal rights and say the road, while long, has finally reached its righteous end.”