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New York TeacherDecember 17, 2020

Volume LXII, Number 3

As 2020 draws to a close, we continue to deal with the challenges of teaching during a pandemic. This issue answers your questions about coronavirus testing in schools, explains how paraprofessionals’ duties are changing, and shares stories and tips from your fellow educators about surviving and adapting during the pandemic. And, because everyone needs something to look forward to, we outline the positive changes in education we can expect under the Biden administration.

Latest News

President Joe Biden
News Stories

Huge education benefits expected under Biden

With President-elect Joe Biden and the soon-to-be first lady, teacher Jill Biden, in the White House, sweeping changes in U.S. education policy may be on the horizon.

Students interact with a child care provider at a day care
News Stories

UFT wins contract as child care network provider

The UFT has won a city contract as a network provider to coordinate the work of home-based family child care providers. The new network expands the union’s advocacy on behalf of these workers.

Feature Stories

Teachers Teresa Bello (left) and Renee Pearson

Gifts of the garden

It was a small but unforgettable moment in Renee Pearson’s outdoor pre-K class: a new student was about to pick a green tomato in the school garden but was dissuaded by a classmate. “It’s not red; it’s not ready yet,” the boy said. 

Students teaching one another is just one of the gifts of the garden that grows behind PS 185/the Locke School of Arts and Engineering in Harlem. 

Five months into the pandemic, the city encouraged schools to create outdoor classrooms. The staff at PS 185 jumped at the opportunity.

“Even before the pandemic, we had implemented outdoor learning on a smaller scale, using the garden during recess,” said Chapter Leader Kaitlyn…

Teachers Packaging Books

Bringing the library to them

UFT members’ book drive at Bronx Park MS ensures both in-school and remote students have books to read during the pandemic. 

Xue Qing Liang, chemistry teacher
Member Profiles

Classrooms during COVID

To make the school year feel successful, educators are revising lesson plans, troubleshooting technology and investigating new strategies. Day by day, they’re figuring out what works for their students — and themselves. Read their stories.

Member Spotlight

Ray Ferrigno
Chapter Leader Shoutout

Kudos to Ray Ferrigno, Staten Island Technical HS

The chapter leader at Staten Island Tech spearheaded the development of a programming school-based option (SBO) for this school year that addressed the needs of the school community at his specialized high school. 

What I Do

Polly Spain, Pathways to Graduation teacher

A teacher talks about working in the Pathways to Graduation program, an alternative high school program that helps students ages 17 to 21 earn their High School Equivalency (HSE) Diplomas.

Around the UFT

Evelyn Edwards

Virtual Parents Conference

Five hundred public school parents across the city joined the UFT’s virtual parent conference on Nov. 7 to discuss remote learning and parenting during the pandemic. 

The union has hosted parent conferences every fall in each borough for the past decade but, due to the pandemic, the UFT decided on a citywide event this year.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew summed up the coronavirus experience. “We still have a lot of challenges,” Mulgrew told the attendees. “We have frustrations with the Department of Education and frustrations with parents’ inability to get the support they’re looking for.”

The conference workshops were designed to help provide some of…

A zoom call screenshot of the 2020 college fair.

College Fair

More than 1,000 students, parents, teachers and school counselors participate in the first virtual UFT College Fair, held via Zoom in October.

Nurses attend a video call while posing and holding up signs

Federation of Nurses/UFT Professional Issues Conference

Federation of Nurses/UFT members and school nurses in November attended the UFT’s 41st annual Professional Issues Conference, held virtually for the first time.

Your Rights and Benefits

Know Your Rights
Student and Paraprofessional eating

Paraprofessionals’ rights and responsibilities during blended learning

Here's what the school day looks like for paraprofessionals and how their responsibilities have changed during blended learning. The new position of para classroom manager will also help meet the demands of teaching during COVID-19

Know Your Benefits
Man being fitted for a hearing aid

Hearing aids and exams

Through the UFT Welfare Fund, UFT-represented employees and their dependents can purchase a hearing aid and be reimbursed up to $1,000 once every three years.

Your Well-being
Elderly people (generic)

Dementia care during COVID-19

Caring for a loved one with dementia is challenging at any time, but even more so during the pandemic. Here are tips and resources to help. 

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. 

Q&A on the Issues

Fulfilling your CTLE requirements

In 2016, the New York State Board of Regents adopted standards that require certain teachers and paraprofessionals to collect and track professional learning credits called Continuing Teacher and Leader Education (CTLE) hours. The following Q&A will help you learn more about how to fulfill your CTLE requirements.

For Your Information

Get holiday discounts with UFT membership

The UFT app, NYSUT and AFT provide members-only discounts from merchants on travel, apparel and much more. 

For Your Information
Clock on a surface full of $100 bills

Turning 65? Enroll in Medicare

Everything you need to know about signing up for Medicare if you’re turning 65, whether you are retiring or continuing to work.

For Your Information
Teenager wearing graduation cap being kissed by two adults

High school seniors may apply for Shanker scholarships

High school seniors have until Dec. 31 to apply for the UFT’s $5,000 Albert Shanker college scholarships.

For Your Information
Picture of tree with number figures and people on a Zoom call

Earn CTLE hours with low-cost LearnUFT courses

In July 2021, some educators will reach the end of the first five-year cycle for collecting 100 Continuing Teacher and Leader Education (CTLE) hours from state-approved providers. This Q&A tells you what you need to know about CTLE requirements. 

Secure Your Future
Illustration of man juggling weights

Labors of Hercules, UFT-style

There was no service interruption in the UFT Pension Department as employees, working remotely for the first time, handled an influx of retirement queries. 


President's Perspective
4th-grade teacher Tiffany Potashnick

Our members step up — as always

As the pandemic brings economic devastation to our communities, UFT members are helping to bring hope. The union is working with community partners to deliver food and address the other needs of our children and their families

A young teacher leads an online class

A year of blessings and challenges

UFT Vice President for Middle Schools Richard Mantell writes that no matter what is going on around us, we tune out the noise and we plug away, fulfilling our responsibilities to our students, whether in person and/or remotely.

Betsey DeVos with Joe Lieberman

Exit DeVos

Betsy DeVos, who championed policies aimed at destroying public education and diverting public funds to private schools, will likely be remembered as the worst U.S. education secretary ever.

Editorial Cartoons
Betsy DeVos walking down the road after cutting title IX, fair funding and student debt relief

Bye, Bye Betsy!

With the election of Joe Biden for president, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will soon be gone, leaving a wake of destruction behind her.

Teaching Resources

Learning Curve
Zoom breakout rooms

Six simple strategies to improve learning this year

Enabling private chats with students,  Zoom breakout rooms and modeling classwork for students are a few of the strategies teachers can use to improve learning during this challenging time.

Linking to Learning
Designing your Bitmoji

Designing your Bitmoji classroom

The Bitmoji classroom is a virtual space to use as a landing page for remote classrooms that includes a cartoon version of the teacher, or a Bitmoji. Using this technology has become a pandemic trend. 

Teacher to Teacher
ELA teacher Tina Macchio says peer-led discussions allow students to take ownership of their learning

Peer-led discussions are a key building block

Participating in peer-led discussions allows students to take ownership of their learning and learn the value of collaboration.

Building Your Career

Inside My Classroom
A student wearing a mask participates in art class

A project to show how feelings change

"During our 'All About Us' unit, we discuss different feelings and how our feelings change throughout the day." — Johanna MacNeal, prekindergarten, PS 398, Jackson Heights, Queens

New Teacher Articles
Father and son looking at laptop screen

Technology can bolster home-school connection

You can strengthen your ties with students’ parents by taking advantage of these digital tools and technology.

New Teacher Diaries
Two teachers wearing masks bump elbows instead of shaking hands.

Staying close — six feet apart

How one teacher builds a classroom culture during a pandemic.

Retired Teachers News

Tom Murphy
RTC Chapter Leader Column

Transfer of power

The transfer of presidential power is very much on our minds now. In the introduction to his classic, "The Making of the President 1960," Theodore White wrote: "The most awesome transfer of power in the world, the power to marshal and mobilize, the power to send men to kill or be killed, the power to tax and destroy, the power to guide and the responsibility to heal, all committed into the hands of one man … The noise and the blare, the bands and the screaming, the pageantry and oratory of the long fall campaign, fade on Election Day ... Now the candidates must wait."

The 1960 peaceful transfer of power from Dwight D. Eisenhower to John F. Kennedy seems from our present vantage point as if it took place on another planet. The noise and blare of today would have been…

A zoom screenshot of RTC members
RTC Service

'Fantastic journey' awaits course-takers

There has been a surge in registration for Si Beagle courses as classes switch from on-site to online and retirees become remote learners.

UFT retiree Rosemary DelValle dresses as Merry Rose the Clown
RTC Second Act

Now she’s the class clown

Rosemary DelValle served as an elementary school teacher in the Bronx and Manhattan for 38 years. Now retired, DelValle has transferred all the skills she honed to engage and motivate students to her new role as Merry Rose the Clown.