MEA Conference

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The week after MEA, I’d always listen to my friends and their interesting stories about their vacations. Their families went to Duluth, or they went to apple orchards, or they had movie marathons. I, however, being the daughter of a teacher, spent part of my MEA break at the Xcel Energy Center for the MEA Statewide Teachers Conference. The oddest part was that I wasn’t envious of my friend’s fall breaks. I liked the conference. Then again, I was a weird third grader.

The event is an annually held conference that teachers and educational workers statewide can attend. It offers workshops, speakers, a job fair, educational exhibits, and much more. It’s Minnesota’s biggest (professional) event for teachers and educators.

I remember getting up at 7:00 AM for the event, and driving through painfully terrible traffic to get to the conference. We’d eat breakfast muffins there, and then walk around the educational exhibits. Being one of the only children there, I received prizes, candy and loads of much wanted attention. Being the age I was, we often didn’t stop to listen to the speakers or sign up for workshops.

This year, the 2018 MEA Fall Conference was held at the Saint Paul RiverCentre on Thursday, October 18. For the first time, it was only open to Minnesota educators. So, while some teachers will be in classrooms and schools, others will be at the Saint Paul RiverCentre this Thursday.

From Boilers to bears: In the shoes of a school custodian

Ask a custodian at Highland Park, and they will tell you about the legendary bears that were chased out of Battle Creek. In truth, they’ve had encounters at Highland with birds, bats, and squirrels. Against the odds, they worked to trap a bat, who nearly set off a motion sensor and triggered the police. Ask them what happens when a squirrel gets caught in the fieldhouse. Or what about the time that they helped newly hatched ducks escape the courtyard?

However, the life a custodian extends far beyond rodents and other small animals. Consider the time they spend on the roof, navigating the ventilation system. The real danger is cleaning and draining the pool. “The chemicals we use to clean the pools can be dangerous.” One custodian told me. Alongside maintaining the pool, the custodians spend time cleaning and maintaining the boilers: which has potential to be very hazardous. The boilers are hot and challenging to clean because of that.

Chasing off animals and cleaning the boilers is only a small piece in the giant operation of maintaining Highland Park. The custodians also sweep, vacuum, wipe down glass, clean the bathrooms, take out the trash, and take part in the security–only a few of the many things they do. Even with the predicaments custodians face daily, they told me that, “The staff and students at Highland Park make our job easier.”