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Newest teachers ‘excited’ to join UFT

New York Teacher
Newest teachers excited
Erica Berger

UFT District 75 Special Representative Ilyana Frias (left) gives a union card to Shanna Lee Williams, a former para who is starting her first year of teaching at Cobble Hill HS, Brooklyn.

Newest teachers excited
Erica Berger

On line with others filling out UFT enrollment cards are Maria James (right) of PS 69 in the Bronx and Lorraine Gordon of Bronx Design and Construction Academy.

More than 1,500 new teachers signed their union cards at the opening day of the city Department of Education’s annual New Teacher Week on Aug. 28.

The line of new educators stretched twice around the block to enter the welcome event, held at Fiorello H. LaGuardia HS of Music & Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan, with the nearby Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Campus accommodating the overflow.

More than 250 new educators had previously enrolled in the union online, bringing August’s total to nearly 1,800 new UFT members.

Dana Thompson, who will be teaching 2nd grade at PS 85 in the Bronx, says she found it reassuring to become a UFT member. “As someone who worked for an employer for six years and didn’t have any benefits — this is exciting, to feel that you’re protected by having a union behind you,” she said.

The UFT was in full force at the event: New members received not only union tote bags full of supplies but also information on their retirement benefits, certification and licensing, the Member Assistance Program and the UFT Teacher Center. Union staff and officers made sure the new members understood not only their rights and benefits but also that they were now part of a family of educators almost 200,000 members strong.

“New Teacher Week and the kick-off orientation provided a fantastic opportunity to meet and welcome our newly hired teachers as they joined our great union,” said UFT Vice President Karen Alford, who leads the union’s new member initiative.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew told the new members that the UFT has their backs. He described the union’s philosophy of good stewardship as an inverted pyramid. “Anyone in power — anyone in charge — should be holding up the foundation and doing everything in their power to support the educators actually working with students,” he said.

Jessica Thompson, who will be teaching 4th grade at PS 68 in the Bronx, said she already felt welcomed by the UFT. “Unions provide support,” she said. “With classrooms, comes stress. The union takes away all of the out-of-classroom stress.”