When Joseph Drake, a fourth grade teacher at Central Elementary School, fired off a testy email to DISD Trustee Edwin Flores (Sample line: "People like you destroy morale, beat us down into the ground, and make us wish we had been greedy enough to go into the business world as yourself.") after the board voted to extend teachers' workdays, he didn't think anyone would even read it. So when school administrators knocked on his door 45 minutes later and told him he was placed on leave, it was a surprise, as was the groundswell of outrage, sparked by a flurry of media attention, that prompted his reinstatement.
Drake certainly didn't expect that he'd be made a symbol for the plight of beleaguered teachers, public employees, and other 99-percenters across the country, but that's what's set to happen around lunchtime today when Drake will receive a Champion of Justice Award from the D.C.-based Alliance for Justice.
"Traditionally, the award goes to people like judges or politicians or lawyers or media people to honor those who have fought for increased justice for all Americans," said AFJ spokesman Kevin Fry. "This year very clear that energy and action for justice is coming from the grassroots level."
The two other recipients of the 2012 award are Occupy Wall Street organizer Nelini Stamp and Valencia Robinson, who helped lead the fight against Mississippi's failed Personhood Amendment.
When I spoke with Drake this morning on Fry's cell phone, he still sounded bewildered by the sequence of events that landed him in a Washington hotel room.
He'd been notified a couple of months before that he was a possible recipient and had spent much of the intervening time setting up childcare for his six kids and getting an okay from the DISD to miss a day of training.
"I'm not sure really what the award is," he said.
Never mind that. You're a symbol, Joseph, like Joe the Plumber but for lefties. Joe the Teacher has a nice ring to it. Enjoy the moment.
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