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Award-winning New York Teacher writer Jack Schierenbeck dies

New York Teacher
A black and white portrait photo of a bearded man
Image courtesy of Anna Schierenbeck

Jack Schierenbeck, a former New York Teacher reporter and columnist who penned an important UFT history series, died on Feb. 28 after a long illness. He was 71.

Schierenbeck’s byline suddenly went missing from the paper in the spring of 2004 when he suffered a debilitating stroke at age 54. But Schierenbeck, who was large in stature, smarts and talent, was never forgotten by anyone who met him.

“Jack Schierenbeck brought a depth of insight to the labor movement a lot of us at the newspaper didn’t have,” said Larry Miraldi, the retired New York Teacher editor who hired Schierenbeck. “He had a passion for how the labor movement improved people’s lives. In many ways, he was the conscience of the New York Teacher.”

Whether he was compiling the Just for Fun listings or writing one of his features or news articles, Schierenbeck was obsessed with making his writing interesting. He delved deep into a story, conducted extensive interviews and engaged in long, arduous research.

Schierenbeck covered everything for the New York Teacher, but his passion was reporting about the American labor movement. His column, Labor Days, was a must-read.

“Jack was funny, opinionated and sometimes loud in his passion,” said labor journalist and photojournalist Gary Schoichet.

Schierenbeck was given the coveted John Commerford Labor Education Award by the New York Labor History Association, joining journalists including Juan Gonzalez and Steven Greenhouse.

He received the award for writing “Class Struggles: The UFT Story,” a nine-part series that went unfinished. The series is posted on the UFT website at www.uft.org/class-struggles.

“The series was important because there hadn’t been much written about early UFT history,” said George Altomare, one of the founders of the union. “He researched and told the stories of a lot of the early people involved. Jack had a lot of energy, great curiosity and always sought out an honest point of view.”

Schierenbeck wore many hats before coming to the UFT. He was a political scientist, an activist and a drug counselor. He wrote speeches for U.S. Postal Service officials. He even ran a nightclub.

Largely, though, he was a writer who loved to discuss history and debate politics. 

Schierenbeck is survived by his wife, Barbara, and his children Alec, Wes and Anna. A memorial service is planned for this summer.