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New York TeacherNovember 5, 2020

Volume LXII, Number 2
As educators and as union members, this fall has presented unique challenges. A phased-in reopening and the closure of schools in COVID-19 hotspots added to the challenge of navigating remote, in-person and blended learning. Outside the classroom, members are working to get out the vote for the crucial presidential election. In this issue, we highlight UFT members’ efforts on both fronts.

Cover Story

A parent uses his tablet to document the first day of class for this new 1st-grader at PS 81 in the Longwood section of the Bronx.

Students return despite challenges

UFT members with the support of their union helped pull off a successful — albeit difficult — return to in-classroom instruction during a phased-in reopening that incorporated 500,000 students from every grade by Oct. 1.

District 75, 3K and pre-K students returned on Sept. 21, while elementary school and K-8 students went back on Sept. 29 and middle and high school students returned on Oct. 1. About 48% of students chose fully remote learning. After the UFT’s intervention, the mayor twice delayed and reconfigured the reopening of buildings due to safety and staffing concerns…

Latest News

Lump Sum Chart 2020

Arbitrator overturns city’s decision to delay lump-sum payment

An arbitrator overturned City Hall’s decision to delay lump-sum payments to thousands of city educators, ordering the city to pay half the amount owed by Oct. 31, and the rest by the end of July 2021.

VOTE Buttons

UFT makes final push in key races

The UFT mobilized members to get out the vote for Joe Biden for president and other candidates up and down the ballot who support the union's education, economic and labor agendas.

Feature Stories

BRAVE program is founded
Today's history lesson

Oct. 19, 2011: BRAVE program is founded

Bullying has no place in any child’s education. That was the inspiration behind the UFT’s creation in 2011 of the Building Respect, Acceptance and Voice through Education, or BRAVE, program to provide tools, knowledge and support in confronting bullying.

a woman holds up a sign honoring her late mother

Virus Can't Slow Strides

The American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks were canceled this year because of COVID-19, but UFT members mobilized in spite of that to raise awareness of the disease and funds to fight it.

Member Spotlight

A teacher smiles at her workspace with her kitchen in the background
What I Do

Kristina L. Pillmeier, school psychologist

School psychologist Kristina Pillmeier assesses and evaluates students’ needs and how they affect their performance in the classroom and their experience in the school environment, then refers them for support services if necessary.

Young bearded man standing and smiling wearing a cream sweater with greek letters.
Chapter Leader Shoutout

Kudos to Marquis Harrison, Frederick Douglass Academy, Manhattan

Chapter Leader Marquis Harrison of Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem, stepped up during COVID-19 to take on new duties as a safety inspector, a counselor, an advocate and an expert on new work rules.

Your Rights and Benefits

Know Your Rights
Two people wearing masks talking about an issue

COVID-related leaves and absences

The coronavirus has necessitated many changes in our work world. To ensure the safety of school communities, staff and students are now being tested regularly, and recently negotiated leaves and absences related to COVID-19 are one accommodation to our new reality. 

Your Well-being
Coronavirus Covid-19

Domestic violence and COVID-19

While working remotely can help to reduce the spread of COVID-19, staying home is not a safe option for survivors of domestic violence. The first step when confronting domestic violence is to create a safety plan.

You Should Know

Grants, Awards & Freebies
A teacher with young students

Grants, Awards & Freebies

See our list of current opportunities for educators to receive funds and recognition for their hard work and dedication. 

Secure Your Future
Piggy bank, money, rising - generic

Build nest egg with tax-deferred annuity

The Teachers’ Retirement System’s Tax-Deferred Annuity Program is an excellent way for eligible UFT members to save money for retirement to supplement their defined-benefit pension. If you’re not already enrolled, start building your nest egg now.


President's Perspective
Former Vice President Joe Biden addresses the gathering

As you vote, remember: Joe Biden gets us

Looking through the lenses of education policy and labor issues, the best candidate for president is Joe Biden — someone who is focused on our dignity, pay, benefits and the workplace protections we deserve.

Early education during a pandemic

Early education during a pandemic

UFT Vice President for Elementary Schools Karen Alford writes that as always, it is the teachers in the classroom who are figuring out how best to serve their students in this unusual school year, with help from three hardworking union groups.


Victory and vigilance

The UFT’s vigilance won deferred wages for work our members did as far back as 2009, even as the city sought to renege on its promise to deliver them, and a no-layoff guarantee for this school year. 

First Day University Neighborhood HS

Safety first

The UFT’s 50-point school safety plan remains essential for students and staff working in school buildings. The DOE agreed to the plan as a condition of reopening the schools, but we need your help to keep our workplaces safe.

Teaching Resources

Learning Curve
Embracing education informed by trauma

Embracing education informed by trauma

Along with notebooks and pencils, students come to school carrying the weight of anxiety, fear and trauma in their lives. As we grapple with COVID-19, educators say students’ mental health should be the priority.

Linking to Learning
A picture of a google classroom page

Google Classroom: Tips and tools

Google Classroom is easy for novices to use. But it’s also a highly versatile platform. Three New York City teachers share their tips and favorite tools for teaching remotely with this powerful program. 

Teacher to Teacher
Lisa Berke poses in front of a compter screen

Using memoirs helps students understand the Holocaust

Lisa Berke, an English teacher at Edward R. Murrow HS in Brooklyn, teaches a course on Holocaust literature through the lens of memoir because she believes in its ability to cultivate empathy. 

Building Your Career

Inside My Classroom
Inside my classroom

Providing a safe and welcoming literacy-rich environment

Fifth-grade literacy teacher Jamala Roper, of PS 179 in the Bronx, took on the challenge of providing a safe and welcoming literacy-rich environment that is also safe and conducive to the guidelines for blended learning.

New Teacher Articles
Rocks balancing near the sea

Self-care more important than ever

Practicing self-care is important, especially in these unprecedented times. Achieve a sense of belonging by connecting with colleagues, establish work boundaries at home and make time for things that are important for your well-being. 

New Teacher Profiles
Paulo Chalco (left) and co-teacher Kirsten Keller

‘The best first experience’

Paulo Chalco, a kindergarten teacher at PS 108 in Brooklyn, has a 5-year-old son who often serves as his sounding board. “If I prepare a lesson, I put it on his table and see what he does. If he gets into the material, then I have an idea it might be a good lesson to use with my kids,” he says.

Retired Teachers News

Tom Murphy
RTC Chapter Leader Column

Using our credibility

In a crisis, the only asset you have is your credibility.

— Paul Volker

This quote from the late Federal Reserve System chair has been on my mind in the midst of Campaign 2020, as we work to cure our national nightmare. When the UFT and its state and national affiliates endorse political candidates for election, what kind of credibility do these political recommendations have with our grassroots, rank-and-file members?

For citywide endorsements, the UFT assesses the candidate’s record on education, labor and human rights. The same criteria are used by our state affiliate, NYSUT, for statewide endorsements and by our national affiliate, the AFT, for presidential and congressional endorsements. In 2016, some members were disgruntled over the endorsement of Hillary Clinton, which was announced early in the presidential campaign when some candidates had not yet entered…

Dine Arounds
RTC Section Spotlight

Zooming in on courses in Westchester

As part of a 12-class Si Beagle schedule put together for Westchester Section retirees, members are creating historic records of the pandemic of 2020 in the COVID Metamorphosis Class, writing memoirs of life as we are living it today.

Joseph Lukose
RTC Second Act

Returning to his farming roots

Joseph Lukose, a school social worker in Queens for 32 years, went back to his roots in retirement. A native of India, he is now a hobby farmer in south Florida, planting and nurturing the tropical fruit trees that surrounded him in his youth.