Passionate educator led CFT for five years, edited California Teacher for 15
Teacher, author and former CFT President Miles Myers died December 15 from complications related to heart disease. Myers devoted his six-decade career to improving educational standards and the conditions for teaching and learning in public education. He was 84.
Myers was born in 1931 in Newton, Kansas. His family moved to Southern California and he graduated from Pomona High in 1949. He served in the U.S. Army in Germany during the Korean War.
After earning a bachelor’s degree at UC Berkeley, Myers taught high school English for 17 years in the Oakland public schools beginning in 1957. While teaching, he earned two masters degrees and a doctorate in writing studies at Berkeley.
Myers became active in the Oakland Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 771, and the statewide CFT. Then-CFT President Raoul Teilhet appointed Myers editor of California Teacher in 1970, a position he held until 1985. He was elected a CFT vice president in 1971 while serving as the organization’s legislative director.
Myers advocated tirelessly for a collective bargaining law for teachers and classified employees, and when the Educational Employment Relations Act finally passed in 1975, Myers rejoiced with all who had worked for it.
Years later, reflecting on the long struggle for collective bargaining, Myers said, “From the beginning, we did not say, ‘We’re going to get power by going to Sacramento and getting a bill that tells us we have the right to collective bargaining.’ We wanted that, but that was not the source of our authority. The source of our authority was in collective action, and watching the peace movement, and the civil rights movement, we could see the strategies one used.”
Myers was elected CFT President in 1985, succeeding Teilhet, and served until 1990. During those years he advocated for new ways of understanding literacy and for the classroom authority of teachers, believing that the people who knew best how to improve classroom practices were not academics, politicians or businessmen, but teachers themselves.
Myers saw teachers becoming researchers in their own classrooms, their research powering more effective teaching and learning. He advanced these ideas through books on writing and literacy, including The Teacher Researcher: How to Study Writing in the Classroom (1985) and Changing Our Minds: Negotiating English and Literacy (1996). He viewed collective bargaining as a tool among others in the transition from teaching as an occupation to teaching as a profession.
Like Teilhet, Myers saw unionism as a vehicle for broader social justice goals. During his presidency, the CFT opposed U.S. intervention in Central America and supported the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.
Myers co-founded the Bay Area Writing Project at UC Berkeley in 1974. It became the basis for a national literacy-based curriculum model, rooted in the belief that teachers are the best teachers of teachers, and he was deeply committed to the organizations it inspired, including the California Writing Project and National Writing Project.
In 1990, Myers left the CFT to become the executive director of the National Council of Teachers of English, a position he held for seven years. Most recently he was as a consultant with the Institute for Research on Teaching and Learning.
Myers received the CFT’s highest honor, the Ben Rust Award, in 1994. He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Celeste, his three children, three sisters, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. The family asks you to honor Myers by buying a book, reading it, and then donating it to a library.
— By Fred Glass, CFT Communications Director