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Dear wonderful friends & familia-
It is with great honor & respect & even some humility that I share with you that I have been named the NEA's 2017 
Social Justice Activist of the Year
Words cannot begin to express the pride & the inspiration I feel from receiving this extraordinary distinction (& as most of you know, I am rarely at a loss for words; usually I have a veritable plethora & then some!).  That this group of teachers, students & union members believe in me & in the things that I do; that so many people across the country voted to bestow upon me this such very prestigious award; that so many folks, so many of you- my friends, my family, my colleagues, my union, absolute strangers- believe in me & what I have accomplished (& furthermore, what I can continue to achieve!) is staggering to me. Truly.  But I fully realize that this is not only a validation & a benediction of what I have done but indeed a call to arms for what I will do. …

Robt Seda-Schreiber for Social Justice Activist of the Year

Robt Seda-Schreiber is, hyperbole aside, the very definition of a Social Justice Activist.

In no particular order and in short summation, Robt’s dedication to social justice manifests itself in the following endeavors including but not limited to:

For almost twenty-five years now, he has taught and inspired students, colleagues, parents, and the greater community in the same school he attended as a student himself; before he taught, he founded and ran The Creatures of Awareness Theatre Co., a non-profit community theatre group which raised over $10,000 for AIDS foundations and support groups; in his first year of teaching, he started the Kreps Middle School mural program which showcases student artwork that has social and political import; Robt has written and directed the school’s spring play at his school for over twenty years, always a topical piece that communicates an important message of respect and kindness (this year it was a protest piece disguised as middle school theatre celebrating immigration titled “I Am America” with all proceeds benefitting the ACLU); he has served on both the NEA LGBTQ National Caucus as well as the Mercer County Human & Civil Rights Committee (wherein he created an annual scholarship fund for students to attend the HiTOPS/GLSEN Trans*Youth Forum); he is also a working artist, but never sells his work, rather donating each piece he does to a charity or cause in which he believes and wants to support; lastly, Robt helped to start the Kreps Middle School Gay Straight Alliance almost five years ago, the first middle school GSA in New Jersey and one of only a handful in the entire country and this group has gone on to inspire many other GSA’s, many of which also shepherded by Robt.

Since its inception five years ago, through Robt’s tireless and wonderful efforts, the Kreps GSA has created a safe haven for its members and the students in the Kreps School as well as the community as a whole. It has paved the way for a new wave of GSA’s to be created in its wake. Robt has been carrying the torch since the very genesis of this group- not even a salary or stipend during the first two years of the group’s existence. Mr. Seda-Schreiber worked totally voluntarily in order to prove the worth and need of this GSA in a middle school arena and now with so many other GSA’s popping up around N.J. and around the country as well, that belief has been vindicated and indeed should be celebrated. Many have tried to dismiss the group, both initially and sadly still to this day, with thinly-veiled homophobic criticisms. Robt had to prove himself again and again (and again!) to the nay-sayers, the bigots, the homophobes, folks just too scared or misinformed to see the import and need for this group to exist, as well as many teachers and parents who just needed to simply understand that love is love, that each student deserves to feel safe, warm and protected in our hallways and it’s never too early for acceptance.

The Kreps Middle School Gay Straight Alliance, led by Mr. Seda-Schreiber, has flourished in its first five years and been a vanguard in the fight for LGBTQ rights, both locally and nationally: the membership growing exponentially (from an initial seven to over fifty this year!); holding multiple school events- rockin’ dances, fun charity events, edifying and interesting guest speakers and workshops- to which the entire community looks forward; reaching out within the school itself as well the greater community; and inspiring countless others- groups and individuals spurred on by the example of this group to work within their own community. 

Ironically, Robt’s real long-term goal of the Kreps GSA is to make the group itself obsolete, for its very reason for being to become unnecessary due to its message of acceptance one day becoming the norm. His hope is that there will be a day when diversity is so widely accepted that there will no longer be a need for a GSA in schools and adolescents can feel free to be who they are, wherever they are. But until then, recognition like this from the NEA and receiving awards like this will allow him the clout and respect he needs to keep doing what he needs to do.

Furthermore, to put in bluntly, Robt Seda-Schreiber saved a life.

Now it is understood that the very existence of GSA’s save lives every day, both literally and figuratively. By simply existing, these groups make kids feel safer, more accepted and indeed loved and sometimes, oft-times, this is what allows some students to get up in the morning, traverse those very intimidating hallways and make it through their sometimes, oft-times, very difficult days.

But rarely do we get to see that fact in such a striking and wonderful way as in the story of Vee V. and the way Robt saved her life, both figuratively and literally. It is an utterly perfect and indeed wonderful microcosm of what we all should strive to do every day. Listen:

Robt had gotten word from Hi-TOPS, a group in Princeton that helps adolescents with a variety of issues, that a student in another district was being bullied and that his school was doing nothing to help him. That student, at the time identified as male and was known as Vincent, was being harassed and abused verbally, emotionally and physically to the point where he didn’t want to go to school anymore…
In fact, he didn’t want to live anymore.

Robt invited Vince to the GSA’s upcoming “Rainbow Dance”, and without prior notice, Vince showed up at the dance. Amidst the 200+ students, Mr. Seda-Schreiber, saw a student he didn’t recognize, purple-haired and alone, holding up a wall. Introducing himself, Robt discovered this was Vincent, who hugged Mr. Seda-Schreiber and thanked him for the invite. Vincent danced and smiled for the first time in much too long a while. After the dance, Robt met Vincent’s parents, wonderful folks, so supportive of their son; more hugging and crying ensued and an important and life-changing relationship was born. Mr. Seda-Schreiber went on to fight the family’s school board over many, many months: hours and hours spent at meetings and negotiations, and incredibly got the school board to agree to not only transport Vince to the Kreps School but to pay for his time there as well. Vince flourished at Kreps.
He became the Kreps GSA President. He made friends and found teachers who accepted him for who he was. Then Vince became Vee. After feeling this love, this acceptance, this safety, Vee was finally able to accept and recognize her true self and transition from Vincent to Vee and be whom she was always meant to be. This act of courage was inspiring to all and allowed the school and community to learn and grow exponentially. The Kreps School’s first transgender student became a symbol of hope and strength for all. The school and the greater community in the end actually benefitted more from Vee that she did by coming to the school, no doubt, and all of that directly the result of Robt Seda-Schreiber’s love, dedication and tireless pursuit of simply what is righteous in this world.

With this drive and vision, and with his highly successful GSA,  Robt has inspired numerous other GSA’s to be created in surrounding schools, both in New Jersey and indeed across the country. There are many who seeing the existence and the success of this middle school group, have formed GSA’s in their own schools and their communities. Numerous groups have actually reached out to Mr. Seda-Schreiber for his help and guidance in the process of their creation and formation. He has traveled far and wide to help out many of these schools, including: Glen Ridge High School; Timberlane Middle; Steinert High; Reynolds Middle School; Community Roots Charter School (Brooklyn, NY); Community Middle; Grover Middle and the list could literally go on and on. Some of these schools now have fully functioning GSA’s, others are in the nascent stages of forming their clubs, but all of these and more were directly inspired by Robt and the Kreps GSA.

Robt’s work for social justice is not solely in the LGBTQ arena. He is a strong proponent for the rights of all peoples, regardless of race, gender (or lack thereof), religion (or lack thereof), national origin, or physical or mental disability.

His career and indeed his life as a whole is predicated on the fight for equality for all. It shows in his daily teachings and in his larger endeavors, both personally and professionally. He is constantly challenging himself and others to live up to the true ideal of this country: that we are all created equal and deserve, at the very least, to be treated as such.

Robt works tirelessly both personally, through his creation and donation of artworks for such diverse groups and causes, such as Eden Autism Services, various animal rights organizations, the Obama campaign (both runs!), Legal Services of N.J., Womanspace, and numerous others: and professionally, by serving on the Mercer County EA Human and Civil Rights Committee; inspiring students through his mural program to create thoughtful and thought-provoking works for the greater community; or writing and directing shows at his school that cast light on important topical issues. This year, in fact, his play was a perfect example of capturing the national Zeitgeist: The show was entitled “I Am America”, and it was a direct answer and stunning rebuke to the current administration’s immigration ban, but in a surprisingly entertaining and positive way. It was protest in the guise of celebration of our true national origins, our culture, and our people’s beautiful diversity, and on top of all that, all proceeds from the production benefitted the ACLU (and matched in kind by Robt personally).

Robt Seda-Schreiber has indeed been recognized throughout his career and rightfully so. He has been: his district’s Teacher of the Year; a Fulbright Memorial Fund Scholar, representing our country in Japan; named one of Kenneth Cole’s Courageous Class; awarded the title of Champion of Equality by the NJEA; honored by both his township’s Mayor and the State Senate; and even dubbed a Teacher Who Makes Magic by WMGQ!

All of these awards and accolades honestly though seem to be the precursor and in preparation for this: the NEA Social Justice Award. It seems Robt’s entire career, indeed his entire life, had led up to this very moment and this very honor…

He teaches in the classroom, inspires in the hallway, and cares for each and every student and each and every person with whom he comes in contact, and he does so with passion, warmth and an intelligence rare and wonderful.

For this & for so so much more, Robt Seda-Schreiber should be named the
NEA’s Social Justice Activist of the Year.


Kreps School '83 & '17


I am thrilled & honored to be the NEA Social Justice of the Year!