Two W.Va. teachers among TIME's 2019 most influential people

By  | 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Two West Virginia teachers are among TIME's most influential people for 2019.

Jay O'Neal and Emily Comer made the list following the teacher strikes earlier this year in response to a proposed education bill.

The pair is in TIME's "pioneers" category.

Each person (or in this case, people) has a tribute -- a description of why he/she is influential.

O'Neal and Comer's tribute was authored by Dolores Huerta, a civil rights activist who co-founded what is now the United Farm Workers of America:

"One teacher can change a young person's life, giving them the confidence to pursue their biggest goals. But in the past year, teachers have left an impact well beyond their classrooms, launching a social-justice movement that was impossible to ignore. Teachers are the foundation of our democracy. They're the conscience of our society. When teachers stand up for themselves—as Jay O'Neal and Emily Comer did in West Virginia, and as others have since done in Oklahoma, Arizona, California and beyond—it is a message to all of us. If teachers are standing up, you can stand up. The only way to stop hatred and division in our country is through education, and that requires investing in our teachers. These strikes have been a wake-up call about the lack of education funding and the wage crisis that exists across industries today. It can be hard for teachers to get civically engaged, but if more did, I think we would have an entirely different society."

The strike in 2019 was the second year in a row that West Virginia teachers made national headlines for rallying for change. In 2018, educators went on a statewide strike for nine days over rising health care costs and pay.

This is also the second year in a row that someone from our area made TIME's list. Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader was among TIME's most influential pioneers in 2018. Rader has been a dedicated leader on the front lines of the opioid crisis, and in 2017, she was sworn in as the first female fire chief in West Virginia history.