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Chapter Leader Shoutout

Heather Fefferman and Dana Botwinick

PS 21, Flushing, Queens: For lifting spirits during pandemic
New York Teacher

Heather Fefferman and Dana Botwinick, co-chapter leaders at PS 21 in Flushing, Queens, decided to add some morale-building activities to their usual union leadership responsibilities after seeing the roller coaster of emotions their members were experiencing this year of the pandemic.

“Staff have been hit pretty hard worrying about exposure to the virus,” said Fefferman (right, in photo). “We want them to know their resiliency in the face of so many challenges is appreciated.”

Mysterious Post-it note messages of appreciation and encouragement began appearing on bathroom mirrors: “It’s a good day to have a good day!” and “Your attitude determines your direction.”

Small gifts of candy, stickers, highlighters and candles began turning up on staff desks and in their mailboxes.

But now their cover is blown. One of their colleagues guessed who it was.

Fefferman said she scoured dollar stores for the gifts “to bring us together when we couldn’t be together.”

The two chapter leaders also arranged for coffee and small bites the first day back after the citywide shutdown of schools in November and a “grab-and-go” breakfast at Halloween.

For the staff with remote assignments, the two organized an online exercise class.

Botwinick said they were seeking to ease the uncertainty and isolation of this school year. “This year is the most challenging ever with constant schedule changes and the school being opened and closed,” she said.

While Fefferman has an in-person assignment and Botwinick is remote, they are in constant communication with one another. Both have worked at PS 21 for more than 20 years.

Science teacher Linda Arian had much praise for the duo. “I know what they are up against and how hard they have worked to keep morale strong and to meet the constant challenges imposed by the pandemic,” she said.

Arian lauded them for “the positive feelings they create and build on and the way they always try to make staff feel welcome and appreciated.”