Around the UFT

UFT Better Speech and Hearing Month Celebration

Therapists discuss ways to change lives

Miller Photography

Speech Improvement Chapter Leader Mindy Karten Bornemann (back row, left) thanks members of the event committee, who made the fifth annual UFT Better Speech and Hearing Month Celebration a success. They are (front row, from left) Jennifer Knight of Bronx PS 182, Ava Geddis of Brooklyn’s IS 296 and Lorina Allert of Brooklyn PS 13; and (back row, from left after Bornemann) Melissa Heller of Queens PS 139, co-chair Brenda Caquias of Brooklyn PS 257 and co-chair Kathleen Lewis of Bronx CS 102. Click here to view more photos.

Miller Photography Celeste Norman (left), recently retired from the chapter’s executive board, receives an award for her many years of work. “Mindy Bornemann’s hard work makes our job easier in the classroom,” Norman said.
Ellie Spielberg Award-winning posters and poetry were in evidence at the celebration, which recognized the outstanding work of students and the special projects of their speech therapists.

Until he came to the United States, he never knew there was such a thing as speech therapy. The student felt like a freak, was teased, was filled with shame and secretly dreamed of fluency in speech and success in life.

The embarassment and despair were familiar to the dozens of speech therapists attending the fifth annual UFT Better Speech and Hearing Month Celebration at the union’s Manhattan headquarters on May 16.

Also familiar to them was the turnaround that he and other students can have with the right help. Today, thanks to the help and education he received from speech therapists in the New York City public schools, the teenage boy is seeing his dreams come true.

“It changed my life,” he said.

His eloquent video greeting was one of many high points at the event, which included an awards ceremony for individuals, for collaborative projects and for student winners of writing and poster contests.

After welcoming remarks from Mindy Karten Bornemann, chapter leader of the city’s 2,200 speech improvement teachers, UFT President Michael Mulgrew thanked the teachers for the work they do.

“The UFT has always celebrated the excellent work members do, but the way the city has been acting toward educators lately, it’s more important than ever that we celebrate each other’s accomplishments,” Mulgrew said. He urged the chapter to continue the fight “not just against layoffs, but the fight for getting our school system to work for children.”

Among the many interesting winning projects Bornemann cited were “SESIS (Special Education Student Information System) for Dummies,” in which Blake Rose of PS 321 in Queens, completely on her own, created a volume that made sense out of the program’s senseless and burdensome implementation.

In a similar vein, Margaret Rice of Staten Island’s PS 57 trained members using a “SESIS Training Module” that provides professional assistance to many of the therapists and teachers — assistance that the Department of Education should have given to them.

Debby Poleshuck received an award for a grant-writing project that garnered $400,000 to revive the crumbling playground at PS 18 on Staten Island.

“From Cave Drawings to Multi-Media Communications” — a three-week curriculum that explored the history of communication and gave children a strong sense of accomplishment and self-confidence — was the brainchild of George Pagano of Brooklyn’s MS 88.

Naomi Joseph of PS 256, a District 75 school in Queens, helped parents, educators and child care providers feed children who suffer from the swallowing disorder dysphagia. She partnered with Target to provide food processors for pureeing meals and provided techniques and recipes to better nourish children.

[A list of all the winners is posted online at]

Bornemann introduced and thanked the chapter’s Better Speech and Hearing Month Committee for their months of volunteer work that made the event a success. They are co-chairs Katherine Lewis and Brenda Caquias and committee members Lorina Allert, Ava Geddis, Melissa Heller and Jennifer Knight.

Bournemann urged participants and winners “to get involved in our chapter, with our struggles and triumphs.”

Chapter members who wish to get more involved can come to a general membership meeting on June 1 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the UFT’s Manhattan headquarters, 52 Broadway. Members can join the chapter at UFT rallies, volunteer to be a liaison or work on the staff development committee. To RSVP for the group’s next meeting or to volunteer, please call the UFT Hotline at 1-212-598-7774 or email Bornemann at

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