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Signs of respect

‘Signs’ of respect

When Rita Fattorusso invites one of her prekindergarten students to the front of the class to lead morning exercises, the other students pay strict attention. If they don’t, they’ll miss their classmate’s instructions: He uses American Sign Language to tell them to do eight jumping jacks, mimicking the action and counting out the number eight on his fingers.

Paraprofessional Johanna Pontillo (second from left) retires

Giving it the max

When Johanna Pontillo makes her once-a-month trips to Atlantic City, she always “bets the max” on the casino poker machines.

Art teacher Amie Robinson admires a student’s work

Your art journey begins here

"Your art journey begins here.”

That message from Amie Robinson to her students is posted on her classroom door. And for many of those students, that journey has taken their artwork from the classroom at PS 77, a District 75 school in Park Slope, Brooklyn, to the walls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, the Brooklyn Museum and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Jo Ann Westhall inspires her students at PS 31, Queens, to think big. “If you ca

Starting young

For Jo Ann Westhall, an elementary school education includes reading, writing, arithmetic — and computer science. Westhall, a computer science teacher and the chapter leader at PS 31 in Bayside, Queens, brought a subject reserved for middle and high school students to children as young as 4 years old.

A student shows off the eyeglasses she received thanks to the efforts of West Pr

A visionary

Nicole Feliciano, a teacher and chapter leader at West Preparatory Academy on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, 
is the recipient of a 2019 Big Apple Award for helping students get much-needed eye exams and prescription eyeglasses.

Betances (right) was on hand to congratulate Hans at the award presentation.

‘I wanted to be like her’

Yadira Hans is a 4th-grade teacher at PS 249 in Flatbush, Brooklyn, and one of this year's Big Apple Award winners. PS 131 teacher Anita Betances, who taught Hans third grade, set her on her path.

Every student gets a chance to participate in the morning routine.

‘Teaching is her life’

Zenzile DaBreo, a kindergarten teacher at PS/IS 109 in Brooklyn, was honored with the Sanford Teacher Award as the “most inspirational teacher” in New York State. “We only have two rules in my classroom: be respectful and be responsible,” she says.

Viral lesson

Paraprofessional Hollie Tubbs of PS 231 in Brooklyn set out to inspire her students during Black History Month but she ended up inspiring people across the world after a photo went viral on social media.

Jonathan Rothman (left), the winner of a 2018 Sloan Award for Excellence in Teac

Creating problem-solvers

“My goal is that students start to see themselves as problem-solvers, and that there’s a process by which we approach problems using the lens of the tools we have in class,” says Academy for Software Engineering in Manhattan teacher Jonathan Rothman, who was awarded a 2018 Sloan Award for Excellence in Teaching Science and Mathematics.

A paragon of activism

As paraprofessionals celebrate 50 years in the UFT, members can thank Velma Hill, the chapter’s founder and first chair, for leading the charge to uplift paras and their communities by transforming their job into a secure union career.