Lily Eskelsen is a 6th grade teacher from Utah, currently serving the more than 3 million members of the National Education Association as their President.
Lily began her school career as a lunch lady and then a kindergarten aide. Encouraged by other teachers in her school to go to college and become a teacher herself, she worked her way through college on student loans, scholarships and as a starving folk singer. She graduated magna cum laude in elementary education and later earned a master’s degree in instructional technology, teaching at Orchard Elementary in West Valley City, Utah and later teaching homeless children at the Salt Lake Shelter School and the Christmas Box House for hard-to-place foster children.
After teaching only nine years, Lily was chosen as Utah Teacher of the Year. She was elected the following year to lead the Utah Education Association as president for six years. She won her party’s nomination for U.S. Congress in 1998 (and came in second). She served as president of the Utah Retirement System and president of the Children at Risk Foundation. Today, she serves as a Commissioner on the White House Commission for Excellence in Education for Hispanics, on the Board of Directors of the National Board for Professional Teaching Practice, and on the Board of Directions for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.
Today, Lily authors a blog, “Lilysblackboard.org”, and her advice for parents has been published in Time Magazine, Working Mother and Parenting magazines. She regularly defends public education on Fox News, CNN en Español and MSNBC and in radio stations across the country. She’s been the invited keynote for hundreds of education events in literally every state and several countries and was highlighted by Education World in their “Best Conference Speakers edition.
Lily has been honored with the Leadership Award of the Utah Council of Teachers of English, the PTA Friend of Children Award and the Communicator of the Year award from the Utah Association of Business Communicators. She received The Charles Bennett Human & Civil Rights Award for her work with at-risk children and was named by Hispanic Business Magazine as one of their Outstanding Women of the Year. In 2012 she received the Eagle Award from Latino Leaders and was honored with the Art & Culture Award by the Labor Heritage Foundation.