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HERstory celebration

Honoring the icons of tomorrow today
New York Teacher
HERstory celebration

These women were among the 26 UFT members who were recognized at the March 16 event.


Women who are making history now in their school communities and union were the focus at the union’s HERstory celebration for the first time in the event’s five-year history. This year, 26 UFT members were honored for their inspiring efforts to serve their students.

“When we think about Women’s History Month, we think about women of the past who have lived lives that are mysterious to us because we weren’t around when they laid the foundation for us, when they fought the good fight,” UFT Vice President for Academic High Schools Janella Hinds told a room filled with about 200 members, family and friends. “We don’t always think about those women who are engaging in this work right now.”

That was not the case after the HERstory committee, spearheaded by Hinds, sought out nominations from members in its effort to identify 26 remarkable women.

“As educators, we’re so focused on ensuring that we’re servicing the needs of the students,” said Terrain Chambers Reeves, a teacher and the chapter leader at Edward R. Murrow HS in Brooklyn. “It was a great feeling to be honored for the work that we do.”

The recognition ceremony took place on March 16 at the union’s Brooklyn borough office, which was festooned in bright, springtime colors for the occasion. Attendees enjoyed a buffet brunch and a spa room with services provided by cosmetology students from Queens Technical HS.

The self-care was important to the women in attendance. “I was on cloud nine,” said honoree Shikira Chang, an English teacher at Kurt Hahn Expeditionary Learning School in Brooklyn. “Typically I’m working, working, working. By this time of year, as educators we’re often burned out and stressed. Through self-care and reflection and honoring ourselves, we can be present for our students.”

As always, there was time to celebrate women’s history in the labor movement. A keynote speech from Communications Workers of America Local 180 President Gloria Middleton presented iconic women of the movement like Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, Dolores Huerta and Hattie Canty. Then, attendees lit candles on a birthday cake for the UFT, which was founded exactly 64 years prior.

“When we think of unions, we think male,” reflected honoree Suzette Kirlew, an 8th-grade teacher at IS 238 in Queens, “but our union is 70% women, and we can play an active role.”

Christina Gavin, a librarian at Midwood HS in Brooklyn, noted that gender inequality remains an issue. “Education is a women-led field, and historically, women in the workplace have not received compensation equal to their male counterparts,” she said.

But progress continues. “Our current librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, is the first woman, the first Black person, to hold the position,” Gavin said. “We’re still making history today.”

Related Topics: Women's Rights