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New York TeacherSeptember 10, 2020

Volume LXII, Number 1

The 2020-21 school year got off to a rocky start. But the UFT prodded the city to follow a reopening plan for schools that was endorsed by independent medical experts. In this issue, we showcase the dedication and creative strategies of UFT members during this crisis.

Cover Stories

Michael Mulgrew at a school visit
President's Perspective

Meeting the challenges together

This new school year is shaping up to be unlike any other. We face serious challenges on multiple fronts at the same time: We must protect our safety and health. We must teach and support our students in the best way we know. And we must fend off the threat of layoffs coming from the mayor’s office.

Our journey began in March, when we succeeded in forcing the mayor to close the schools as the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear. We lived through a collective trauma in New York City in March and April. No school system in this country has had to face what we have endured. We lost 68 of our in-service members to the coronavirus.

That is why I vowed we would not return to our buildings unles…

Woman checks in one other woman at an outdoor desk, both wearing masks
Q&A on the Issues

School reopening

The DOE, in consultation with the UFT, has issued new protocols and procedures for staff for the 2020–21 school year. The following Q&A answers some of the most common questions about safety, instruction and student support. 

Para Jason Lichtman has his temperature taken

A return like no other

UFT members returning to their school buildings on Sept. 8 for the first time since March had an experience unlike any other.

Latest News

Union never quit

Union never quit on Census push

The UFT has been working tirelessly all year with its members and with public school families to try to boost New York City’s participation in the U.S. Census.

Lisa-Erika James (left) addresses the press

Members win discrimination suit

The New York City Department of Education has agreed to pay nearly $1.2 million to three African American teachers and an assistant principal to settle both a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by the U.S. Attorney as well as individual lawsuits brought by the affected employees.

Feature Stories

Carolyn Unterman

Big Apple winners empower students — in class and remotely

The most successful teaching strategy of Big Apple award winner Laura Blau, a visual art teacher at Millennium Art Academy in Castle Hill, the Bronx, is empowering students throughout their project-based learning process.

Blau brainstorms with students, discussing everything from content to materials, so they understand what is expected of them. They work together to create projects tied to the students' ideas and interests. Worksheets break down the steps required to successfully complete assignments.

"Students need buy-in," Blau said. "They help me define elements of each rubric…

 Art teacher Bethany Allard (left) and supervising school aide Josie Difo gather items for packages.

Feeding Corona, during Corona

The PS 19 school community was hit hard by illness, layoffs and food insecurity. Luckily, the Corona elementary school is part of the UFT’s United Community Schools initiative. “Everybody came together in a time of need,” said teacher Christina Tholl.

Writing about Covid Kid Cover

Brooklyn 5th-graders write the book on COVID-19 experiences

Fifth-graders from PS/IS 184, one of the UFT’s United Community Schools in Brownsville, Brooklyn, grapple with these issues in their online book, “Tales From a COVID Kid!” They created the book to share personal experiences from the pandemic.

Member Spotlight

Victoria Kravets
What I Do

What I do: Victoria Kravets, occupational therapist

As an occupational therapist at PS 231 in Brooklyn, Victoria Kravets helps students with cognitive or physical disabilities develop adaptive skills. During the coronavirus pandemic, Kravets shifted her work online to support students through teletherapy.

Patrick Coughlin
Chapter Leader Shoutout

Kudos to Patrick Coughlin, IS 27, Staten Island

Chapter Leader Patrick Coughlin has allayed the fears and met the escalating needs of his members at IS 27 on Staten Island by providing solid, up-to-date information to them on a regular basis during the COVID-19 crisis.

Around the UFT

A Zoom workshop

Empowering our most important partners

Weekly UFT online family workshops allowed public school parents to connect with each other and get solid information.

Samantha Mercedes of PS 26

Kids’ pandemic reality on display

“I Will Not Die,” 3rd-grader Samantha Mercedes’ winning pandemic mask design, told the story of her grandmother’s victorious fight against the coronavirus.

Future in Focus

Putting a face on union careers

The pandemic couldn’t stop New York City high school students from learning the benefits of unionized careers, thanks to the first virtual Future in Focus career fair on June 4 on Facebook Live.

Darryl_DMC McDaniels

‘Virtual’ success for students

“Let’s Talk About It,” a UFT Member Assistance Program (MAP) initiative designed to educate and support students around addiction and mental health, had an additional challenge this year: helping students deal with the emotional toll of the coronavirus.

Zulnorain Ahmed from the HS of Computers and Technology in the Bronx, with his parents, Hina (left) and Basit. He’ll study computer science and neuroscience at Colgate.

Winners ready to make ‘world a better place’

More than 180 city public high school seniors and graduate students were honored this year with Shanker Scholarship Awards. The union-funded awards provide almost $1 million to high-achieving students from low-income families annually.

Your Rights and Benefits

Know Your Benefits
an with computer and plants - generic

Member Assistance Program

Over the years, the Member Assistance Program has supported thousands dealing with issues including work stress, marital or parenting difficulties, eating disorders and alcohol or substance use. In response to the pandemic, MAP began offering all its services virtually.

Know Your Rights
Colored silhouettes hands

School chapters and chapter leaders

The pandemic has changed our work world, but the role of the union remains the same, even as the stakes are higher than ever.

Your Well-being
Stressed women with hand on head and gesturing stop

Work, grief and COVID

As we begin a new school year, many of us are grieving the loss of people — colleagues, family members and friends — and the way things were prior to the pandemic. Students need extra support, too.

You Should Know

Secure Your Future
Clock on a surface full of $100 bills

In uncertain times, count on a defined-benefit pension

While the opening of school this fall has been surrounded by uncertainty, one thing you can count on is your defined-benefit pension, thanks to the Teachers’ Retirement System and the UFT.

For Your Information
Kristin Camarinos can spend quality time with her son, Luke, thanks to paid pare

Expecting? Learn about parental leave

Are you a Department of Education-employed UFT member who is preparing to welcome a new child into your life? You can attend a virtual UFT Pathways to Parenthood workshop to learn about your parental leave benefits.

For Your Information
Welfare Fund Medical 45930398 s

Catastrophic major medical insurance open enrollment

Whatever your age or the type of medical insurance you have, you can be left with extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses if you have a serious medical issue or require convalescent, custodial or home health care.

For Your Information
VOTE Buttons

Here’s how to vote in Election 2020

It’s election season, and the UFT has all the information you need to make sure your voice is heard.

For Your Information
Man sits at table looking at paper work

Union members get free legal plan

There is now another reason it pays to be a UFT member. The union has negotiated a free legal service plan for members only. The program gives UFT members access to an attorney who can answer legal questions, write letters on their behalf, review documents and prepare a will.

Opinions

VPerspective
Colored post-it notes on a bulletin board

COVID creates challenges — and opportunities

UFT Vice President for Special Education MaryJo Ginese writes about how special education teachers and related service providers are figuring out how best to serve their students with disabilities amid the challenges presented by the pandemic.

Editorials
Betsy DeVos cartoon figure stands in a doorway with flowers to her left

Devious DeVos

It’s a moment in history when the nation needs a strong and nimble education secretary to guide the course. Instead, Betsy DeVos has only one thing on her mind: figuring out how to exploit the public health crisis to advance her political agenda.

Editorials
People holding picket signs

Change we need

In less than two months we’ll have the chance to put the country back on the right track. There’s never been a clearer choice. Voting for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be a vote for good government, public schools and working families.

Editorial Cartoons

Teaching Resources

Learning Curve
Townsend Harris HS librarian Arlene Laverde

Librarians provide path to digital resources

What’s a library without a room full of books? It may sound like a riddle, but it became the reality for school librarians when New York City public school buildings closed in the spring of 2020.

Linking to Learning
Alina Diner

The benefits of Google Classroom

Teachers using Google Classroom have found that the platform has the potential to foster collaboration with colleagues and communication with families. It also poses a challenge: striking the right balance between consistency and flexibility.

Teacher to Teacher
Sandra Fajgier

Virtual learning for early childhood students

Early childhood educators face a unique challenge with remote learning. In our classrooms, learning occurs through hands-on experiences guided by an intentional facilitator. How can we recreate this virtually? 

Building Your Career

Inside My Classroom
Classroom - IS 61 Leonardo Da Vinci, Corona, Queens

A space at home that resembled my physical classroom

I wanted to create a space at home that resembled my physical classroom so that when my students saw me virtually they would feel at home. 

New Teacher Articles
A man at a computer

UFT has your back as you begin your career

This fall, as we begin a school year like no other, you will face many challenges, but you are not alone. The UFT is here to protect your rights and support you in your new career.

New Teacher Profiles
 Stone became the go-to person for colleagues at IS 364 in Brooklyn who needed help with remote learning.

Taking control of the remote

Two things define Phylicia Stone, a third-year teacher at IS 364 in Starrett City, Brooklyn. First, she can’t sit still. “I don’t waste a minute,” she says. Second, she is self-reliant. “If I want to do something, I sit down and figure it out.”

Retired Teachers News

Tom Murphy

It’s time to take action

Lily Tomlin: “Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain.”

In the White House, the occupant has been whining, finger-pointing, dividing and complaining since Day One. Imagine having him in your classroom as a student. But the complainer in chief isn’t alone. We all indulge.

My message is: Complain but act. There are times when nothing satisfies like verbally licking our wounds. That works for a while but then we must take action to do something that makes things better.

From its earliest days, the labor movement has been optimistic, believing that problems created by mankind are open to solutions. But those solutions depend on moving from complaint to action. Campaign 2020 offers redemption to all of us who complain. Let’s take the opportunity to consign this national nightmare to the pages of history.

We face three crises simultaneously: the pande…

The refurbished Florida Retiree Center in Boca Raton was packed on March 7 to hear from Jill Biden (inset), the wife of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Florida RTC office gets facelift for members

The 7,500 UFT retirees who live permanently in Florida, as well as thousands of winter part-timers known as “snow birds,” continue to await the reopening of the remodeled Florida Retiree Center in Boca Raton, the busy hub that serves them all.

Retiree Jennifer Hardy

Former Brooklyn teacher finds ‘Joy’ in retirement

Jennifer Hardy’s new life as a competing equestrian in the state renowned for the Churchill Downs racetrack and the Kentucky Derby is a dream come true.