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Chapter that plays together

Queens staff follows union rep’s morale-boosting lead
New York Teacher
Crowd poses wearing their pink clothing
Wearing pink for breast cancer awareness is one of the monthly activities at IS 10 in Astoria organized by Chapter Leader Catherine Sarlo.
Woman stands in front of a door decorated as a Christmas tree
Miller Photography

Teacher Valia Ahmed shows off her contribution to the door-decorating contest.

Cupcakes on the first day of school, a door-decorating contest, a Secret Santa and a free snack cart with water, soda and potato chips.

These are among the things devised by Catherine Sarlo, the chapter leader of IS 10 in Astoria, to boost the morale of the members of her UFT school chapter.

“Cathie is fantastic,” said John Lenahan, a math and English teacher in Academic Intervention Services. “She’s always doing something for people in the building.”

Sarlo said she started the monthly activities about three years ago to coincide with Teacher Appreciation Day in May. But soon she began to think: Why not show appreciation every day?

“At the beginning of each month, I think of something new,” Sarlo said.

This fall, there was a Halloween dress-up day (“I was a happy emoji,” Lenahan said) and a post-Thanksgiving feast between the end of the classes and the beginning of parent-teacher conferences.

“In the beginning it was a shock — ‘What’s this?’ but now they’re appreciative,” Sarlo said. “And the more they feel appreciated, the more productive they are.”

Sarlo encouraged staff to wear Mets colors when the team was on a roll — which prompted Ekaterina Papas, a 6th-grade math teacher and Yankee fan, to call for equal time for the Bronx Bombers so fans could don pinstripes.

Sarlo posts inspirational sayings and photos of staff baby showers and birthday celebrations on the UFT bulletin board in the staff lounge. And she spruced up the lounge itself by installing a water cooler and a coffee-and-tea station.

Last spring, Sarlo helped arrange for Home Depot to donate plants to create a beautiful garden outside the school.

“She has a hand in everything,” said Papas. “We’re very fortunate to have her.”

Gobran Girgirs, an 8th-grade math teacher and basketball coach, agreed. “She does a lot for teachers and students,” he said.

UFT members at IS 10 say Sarlo’s activities have transformed their workplace.

“It’s a totally different place because of what she does,” Lenahan said.

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