News stories

Celebrating Dial-A-Teacher

TV weatherman ‘Mr. G’ throws party to fete another record-breaking year by UFT homework helpline

Cara Metz TV weatherman and former teacher Irv Gikofsky (left) and UFT President Michael Mulgrew hone their waiter skills serving pizza, compliments of “Mr. G,” to Dial-A-Teacher teachers Trina Signoriello (right) and Elizabeth Austin.
Cara Metz Mulgrew chats with Dial-A-Teacher staffer Elisabeth Austin-Page during the celebration.
Cara Metz Mr. G listens in to Lisa Radford’s homework help instructions while Project Coordinator Karen Butler-Brock keeps the pizzas coming and Councilman Robert Jackson (left) and teacher Carl Pato discuss the workings of the program.

Phones were ringing and voices humming when the busy late afternoon routine at Dial-A-Teacher was unexpectedly interrupted on May 10 by the arrival of “Mr. G,” their greatest fan, with a WPIX-TV cameraman and an entourage of well-wishers.

The end of another successful Dial-A-Teacher year was approaching and Irv Gikofsky — better known as Mr. G, New York’s best known TV weatherman and a former teacher himself — was there to champion the work being done by the 47 teachers who help the city’s children and their parents with homework problems day after day throughout the school year.

Mr. G would tell the story to the WPIX-TV audience on the evening news that day. He has also made sure radio audiences hear about homework help every weekday on the Dan Taylor CBS-FM morning show.

“This stuff is golden,” Gikofsky said, referring to the work he saw going on around him. “I believe people can change your life, like the good people in this room. How can we ever measure what you’ve done? Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

And suddenly stacks of pizza boxes arrived — a reverse twist on birthday gifts because it seems he was celebrating his birthday by celebrating Dial-A-Teacher.

For the famed 30-year-old homework institution, this has been another record-breaking year with more than 80,000 calls — 5,000 more than last year — already recorded with weeks still left on the school calendar. This also marks the first year Dial-A-Teacher has been fully computerized, providing immediate feedback on the types of calls that are coming in and being answered in 11 languages.

According to Program Director Anthony Harmon, computerization helps in making staffing decisions and in spotting problem areas and schools where parent workshops are needed.

“Rain or shine, sleet or snow, our teachers are here every afternoon,” Harmon boasted.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew — who was on hand for the festivities along with Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who was invited as part of the Dial-A-Teacher UFT/Department of Education collaboration — reminded teachers that Mr. G “is always out there talking about what you do.”

City Councilman Robert Jackson, chair of the Education Committee, also joined the celebration.

Gale Seiden, who is one of the original staffers who still answers phone calls on weekdays, said, “I still love it. I’m still learning and being challenged. I just learned a new word, ‘metonymy.’”

Don’t know the meaning of metonymy? Call Dial-A-Teacher at 1-212-777-3380.

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