Teachers at Lacy Elementary School in West Raleigh, dressed in red, took the stage Monday morning before school to talk about their daily work educating children.
At an event which has planned counterparts across the state Monday, the teachers were followed by politicians who said teachers should be paid more and who criticized the General Assembly for what they described as failing to provide adequate support for public education.
"I believe it is wrong not to have given teachers a pay increase," said state Sen. Josh Stein, a Raleigh Democrat.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Phil Berger, a Rockingham Republican, criticized the event and others scheduled for Monday as a media stunt planned by the North Carolina Association of Educators.
At the Lacy "walk-in" event, Stein was joined by state Rep. Grier Martin and Wake County school board member Christine Kushner. Organizers said they invited elected officials on a nonpartisan basis, but no Republicans spoke.
Suzzette Acree, a second-grade teacher at Lacy, teared up as she spoke about her own daughter's considering a career in teaching.
"She said, 'I made it seem like it wasn't work,'" Acree said.
What looked like more than 200 people gathered in Lacy's multi-purpose room for a video and remarks by people including former Lacy student Alexander Wade, now a Martin Middle School sixth-grader.
"They taught me how to write using a computer," Wade said of his Lacy teachers, who helped him with dysgraphia, a learning disability.
Berger issued a press release Monday morning criticizing the "walk-in" events, while also expressing appreciation for teachers' work and acknowledging their First Amendment rights.
But we dont appreciate the bully tactics of an organized union that puts kids safety at risk to gin up its membership and inflate the salaries of its executives," Berger's statement said. "There is a time and place for everything our schools are not the place for politics and our children should not be the pawns.
Stein addressed previous criticism of the event by Berger and Sen. Neal Hunt.
"These comments demonstrate the positions of disdain in which they hold public education," Stein said.