Around the UFT

Speech teachers’ Western Kentucky University graduation

End of an era

Jonathan Fickies Graduates celebrate earning their Master of Science degrees at commencement ceremonies.

After 14 years as a classroom teacher, Trenika Washington will be returning to JHS 123 in the Soundview section of the Bronx in September as a speech language pathologist. She was one of 16 students who received their master’s degree in communication disorders from Western Kentucky University this year. It is the final graduating class due to the expiration of the state grant upon which the program depended. The UFT established the nontraditional, distance-learning program with the university in 2002 in response to the shortage of speech language pathologists. The university provided online coursework while the UFT Teacher Center provided school-based clinical experience. “This allowed our members to continue working while meeting the challenges of a very difficult degree,” said Speech Teacher Chapter Leader Mindy Karten Bornemann. Katy Falk, who will be taking a speech position at PS 376 in Bushwick, Brooklyn, in September, juggled work, three young children and coursework over four years to earn her degree. “I put the children to bed and worked at my computer for hours every night,” she said. “Now I can’t wait to get into the classroom.” Three hundred people have successfully completed the program since 2002. Instrumental to the program’s success are the UFT Teacher Center’s speech clinical coaches, currently Edward Sweeney, Juanita Dunbar and Angel Tapia. Seventy-seven of the graduates were certified as bilingual speech teachers — more than any other program in the tristate area, said Sweeney. “Our graduates have provided speech therapy to many children who otherwise could not receive their mandated services,” he said. Fifty program alumni were at the ceremony at UFT headquarters on June 12 to cheer on the new graduates. 

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