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Around the UFT

A real page-turner

New teachers get thousands of free books from the UFT
New York Teacher
Jun Lu

Jun Lu, a third-year special education teacher at PS 169 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, traveled from his home on Staten Island to attend the book giveaway.

A teacher hauls away free books

John Lares, a 3rd-grade teacher at PS 277 in the Bronx, is overloaded with new books for his students.

Heaping pallets of high-interest books greeted new teachers on Aug. 13 at the UFT’s Bronx borough office, where they were able to choose 50 books each from among the 30,000 on offer to build their classroom libraries as they start the school year.

Teacher fills up her suitcase with free books

Edugie Odigie, a new math teacher at Fordham HS for the Arts, fills up her suitcase with help from her 2-year-old daughter.

In addition to offering new and diverse books for 3K through high school, the event gave new members an opportunity to connect with their union and interact with UFT representatives. The UFT hosted the giveaway in partnership with the American Federation of Teachers and the nonprofit First Book. New teachers and those with up to three years of experience in city public schools were able to pick up books. They also had a chance to learn about the Dial-A-Teacher homework helpline, the UFT Teacher Center and other UFT programs. They could get answers to their questions about pensions, the UFT Welfare Fund and other union benefits.

Ian Subsara, a theater teacher at Fordham HS for the Arts, was excited to find books with scripts for Disney Broadway productions, such as “High School Musical.” Many students, especially 9th-graders, don’t know what a script looks like, and looking at something online isn’t the same, he said.

“To be able to hold these scripts and get up and move with them is so much better,” said Subsara, who put everything into a rolling suitcase he brought.

Teachers scoured the room for books that would excite students and motivate them to read.

For Abigail Cutting, a second-year special education teacher at PS 723 in the Bronx, one of those books was a cookbook because her students love to make food in the classroom.

People stand with their books

Nicholas Cruz (left), the UFT director of community and parent engagement, and Karen Alford (second from right), the UFT vice president for elementary schools, talk books with Bronx teachers (from left) Abigail Boamah of PS 55, Fedra Antony of PS 106, attending with her son, and Luis Brito of PS 314.

“I appreciate the fact that these resources are made available to teachers free of cost,” she said.

Cutting was a general education teacher in her native Guyana before relocating to New York. Guyana doesn’t have differentiated instruction for students with special needs, so she was drawn to teaching that population in this country.

Larry Johnson and Ian Subsara

Larry Johnson, left, a first-year theater teacher at MS 454 in the Bronx, and Ian Subsara, who started teaching theater at Fordham HS for the Arts in early 2021, leave the event with arms, bags and suitcases full of books.

“I have seen remarkable improvement in the students’ abilities, in their social skills, and I am in awe,” she said.

ReAnn Lang, a new speech teacher at PS 188 in the Bronx, said it was a priority for her to select books that represent people with disabilities and offer culturally diverse stories, and there were plenty to choose from.

“I feel like visibility and cultural representation are very important,” said Lang, who is biracial.

Pamela Arache, a second-year 3rd-grade teacher at PS 691 in the Bronx, found a book about the lunar new year and a counting story based on Muslim traditions.

“I’m trying to add what’s going on in the world to the classroom through the books,” she said.