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New York TeacherDecember 16, 2021

Volume LXIII, Number 3

After decades of advocacy, the UFT won automatic enrollment in the Teachers' Retirement System for full-time paraprofessionals while, in a battle that will continue, the union came closer than ever to winning smaller class sizes. Learn about these campaigns and other union news and information in the last New York Teacher digital edition of 2021.

Cover Story

Members from co-located PS 198 and PS 77 in Manhattan join together to demonstrate for lower class sizes.

UFT members, parents fight for classroom occupancy limits

Thousands of UFT members and parents came together this fall to press the City Council to pass groundbreaking legislation that would reduce class sizes in city public schools by a quarter to a third.

Large class sizes have been a pressing concern of city educators and parents for decades. The union and school communities saw an opening with the COVID-19 pandemic to approach the issue from a new vantage point this year: setting stricter occupancy limits for classrooms to help prevent the spread of disease.

“If we cannot finally agree as a city in the middle of a pandemic that we need a plan to lower our class size, I don’t know where we’re ever going to get to it,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew testified at a City Council…

Latest News

People standing in front of piggy bank with arrows up for financial growth
News Stories

Automatic TRS pensions won for full-time paras

Decades of UFT advocacy bore fruit for the union’s paraprofessionals on Oct. 29 as a newly enacted state law guaranteed all UFT-represented full-time paraprofessionals — on the job now and in the future — will automatically become members of the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS). After they retire, TRS members receive a monthly pension for the rest of their lives.

Man standing in front of yellow busses
News Stories

UFT helps reverse para shortage

A Herculean effort by the UFT helped turn the largest-ever shortage of New York City public school paraprofessionals into a record number of new paras joining the ranks.

Feature Stories

A building with a sign "Clean Rite Center"

Clean confidence

Curtis HS on Staten Island has a dance program, and students who participate remove their shoes. One day, a student asked school counselor Robin Chapman-Rodriguez if she had any socks. “Why?” she asked.

He said, “because I have to dance and I don’t have on clean socks.”

“That broke my heart,” Chapman-Rodriguez said. She bought a big package of socks to keep in her locker, and the student occasionally asks for a pair. “He loves to dance, but he refused to take his shoes off,” she said.

Some of the UFT’s 32 United Community Schools have laundry facilities on site, but a new six-month pilot program and partnership between UCS and Clean Rite laundromats will allow students and their families at five schools in four boroughs, including Curtis, to do laundry in their own neighborhoods. UCS will use City Council funding to pay for laundry cards that can be used at Clean Rite locations, where families can do the…

Women pointing to post it notes on a classroom board

Born ‘leaders’

Three current UFT chapter leaders in District 22 in Brooklyn follow in the footsteps of family members whose dedication and hard work as chapter leaders inspired the next generation.

Woman looking through a lensometer

Visionaries

Teacher Tisha Gomez and the students in the vision technology program at the School for Cooperative Technical Education in Manhattan give the gift of sight, free of charge, to students and community members every day, producing eyeglasses in their fully equipped career and technical education facility. 

Member Spotlight

Madeline Velez
What I Do

Madeline Velez, School counselor

Madeline Velez-Vazquez, a bilingual school counselor at PS 58 in the Bronx, says school counselors are needed “now more than ever to help students succeed.” She says, "I’m seeing both extremes: children who are more hypervigilant about the pandemic and then those who are completely aloof."

Alaa Yousef
Chapter Leader Shoutout

Kudos to Alaa Yousef, Park Slope Collegiate

Alaa Yousef was elected chapter leader at Park Slope Collegiate in Brooklyn this October, and in her first action in that role, she used the operational issues complaint process to get her members paid for instructional lunch periods. When those payments stopped, she resumed her fight.

Around the UFT

UFT President Michael Mulgrew addresses the first hybrid Teacher Union Day gathering in Shanker Hall.
Awards & Honors

Courage in ‘a moment of great danger’

The courage and hard work of members during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was recognized on Nov. 7 at the UFT's annual Teacher Union Day celebration, held in Shanker Hall at UFT headquarters in Manhattan and online via Zoom.

Cogen Award winner Ellie Engler accepts the honor.
Awards & Honors

Cogen winner Ellie Engler all about ‘selfless sacrifice’

Cogen Award winner Ellie Engler made a habit of keeping UFT members safe, from her work with the union’s Safety and Health Department, where she created the Health and Cancer Helpline and the Member Assistance Program, to her early warning about the danger of COVID-19.

UFT District 9 Representative Aqeel Williams helps a boy try on his new coat.

Happy coats-giving!

The UFT hosted an afternoon of food, fun and free coats for students experiencing homelessness at its Thanksgiving Luncheon on Nov. 20, when more than 130 children filled Shanker Hall at UFT headquarters in Manhattan.

Psychologists Appreciation Day

Psychologists Appreciation Day

Nearly 400 school psychologists attended this year’s Psychologists Appreciation Day on Nov. 12, the chapter’s first hybrid event featuring workshops on assistive technology and intelligence assessments. 

Federation of Nurses Conf.

Federation of Nurses/UFT’s Professional Issues Conference

The Federation of Nurses/UFT's Professional Issues Conference, held virtually on Nov.19, gave members valuable information about COVID-19 and its psychological impact, congestive heart failure and social media as it applies to nurses.

Your Rights and Benefits

Know Your Benefits
Wooden gavel on desk - Generic

UFT Legal Services Plan

When you need legal assistance, it can be costly and stressful. That’s why the union recently introduced a Legal Services Plan, which provides in-service UFT members with access to attorneys who will assist them, for free or at discounted rates. 

Know Your Rights
Man Writing Laptop - Generic

Resolving workplace issues

The DOE-UFT contract gives educators two mechanisms for addressing workplace problems and enforcing their collective bargaining agreement: the operational issues process and the grievance process.

Your Well-being
Iron gate with building in the background - Generic

Healthy boundaries

It's important to set and maintain personal boundaries, or the limits and rules we set for ourselves in our relationships with others or with work, in order to keep relationships healthy. Here are some strategies to help you.

You Should Know

For Your Information
New Staten Island UFT office

Staten Island UFT site move

The UFT’s borough office on Staten Island is moving, with the new location at 1200 South Ave. in the Bloomfield section expected to open in February.

For Your Information
A teacher opening a window

Classroom ventilation

If you rely on open windows for good ventilation in your classroom, you will still need to keep a few windows cracked open a few inches even though it’s getting colder.

For Your Information
Albert Shanker College Scholarship Fund logo

High school seniors may apply for Shanker scholarships

Make sure high school seniors apply for the UFT’s $5,000 Albert Shanker college scholarships. This year the application deadline is Jan. 15, 2022.

Q&A on the Issues
Graduation cap on a pile of money

Student debt relief

Temporary changes to the federal Public Student Loan Forgiveness program, prompted in part by the settlement of a lawsuit filed by the American Federation of Teachers and years of lobbying by the AFT and the UFT, may allow UFT members to qualify for federal student loan debt relief through October 2022 even though they may not have been previously eligible. 

Secure Your Future
Business man passing money

Purchasing credit for prior service

If you were a public employee who worked for New York City or New York State before joining the Teachers’ Retirement System or the Board of Education Retirement System, you may be able to purchase credit for that prior service and increase your Total Service Credit — a key factor in determining your retirement eligibility and the amount of your retirement benefit.

Opinions

VPerspective
Special Ed Kids - Generic

DOE must give special ed more attention

We have seen how so many of our students with disabilities have lost ground since the pandemic hit. This fall, we have been confronted with the rocky rollout of the DOE’s Special Education Recovery Services program that was supposed to provide targeted help to these students.

President's Perspective
 A Day of Action for smaller class sizes

Our fight for smaller class sizes

We’ve known for decades that smaller classes enhance teaching and learning. But the pandemic drove home that class size is also a public health issue. We are pushing for legislation that would change the health section of the city’s administrative code to mandate minimal square footage of 28 to 35 square feet per student.

Editorials
Photo of a standardized bubble test with person filling in circles with a blue pen

High-stakes collapse

High-stakes teacher evaluations, which leaned heavily on student test scores, had no discernible impact on improving student achievement or student test scores, according to a report by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University. That comes as no surprise to anyone who has spent time in a classroom.

Editorials
Doctor and patient

COVID tests for adults

With the number of COVID-19 cases across the city on the rise, the increase in breakthrough infections and the threat of the new Omicron variant, in-school testing of unvaccinated students only was clearly no longer not enough. That’s why the UFT called on the city to resume testing vaccinated adults in school buildings.

Teaching Resources

Learning Curve
Phonics

Back to basics

After a year in which instruction was disrupted by the pandemic, that back-to-basics approach of phonics-based reading instruction may be especially important to help struggling readers take concrete steps toward progress.

Linking to Learning
Inviting Virtual Visitors

Inviting virtual visitors has many benefits

Bringing visitors into your classroom to speak to students can be a powerful vehicle for learning. And though New York may have the highest number of experts per capita, a remote visit allows you to hear from people around the country and the world. 

Teacher to Teacher
Masked male child with glasses jumping in the air - Generic

Incorporating movement into learning

Teaching elementary school students while they are up on their feet gives them the opportunity to allow their bodies and minds to work together.

Building Your Career

Inside My Classroom
Inside my classroom

A classroom that feels like home

"The decor and ambiance in my classroom have little touches to make it feel like home — things like curtains on the windows, beanbag chairs in our carpeted area and decorative lights. I try to address all five senses, like using air freshener to make sure it smells good. I like the classroom to be clean and organized, and my students have jobs, like engineer and janitorial staff, to help us maintain that organized environment."

New Teacher Articles
working relationships

Working relationships with colleagues are vital

Whether you co-teach on a regular basis or sit on the same grade or subject team as other educators, you have a host of colleagues who can be your allies and support network.

New Teacher Profiles
Gabrielle Vega

‘I want to be him’

New teacher Gabrielle Vega was drawn to her 8th-grade social studies teacher's flair for the dramatic, and her affinity for theatrics is serving her well as she teaches that subject at MS 936 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, a District 20 middle school dedicated to the performing and visual arts. 

Retired Teachers News

Tom Murphy

Reviewing 2021

Reviewing end-of-year Retired Teachers Chapter events brings to mind my sophomore geometry class. A theorem jumps out at me: The whole is equal to the sum of its parts. Let's add up those parts as they apply to us.

We opened 2021 buoyed by Joe Biden's victory in the presidential election and rattled by the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6. Those events infused us with a sense of optimism mingled with concern.

Several factors shaped the rest of the year: the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the growing availability of vaccines and the vaccine mandates in many workplaces; the New York City Medicare Advantage Plus Plan; the enhancement of the UFT's Supplemental Health Insurance Program (SHIP); and local elections. T…

Healthcare -stethoscope

NYC Medicare Advantage Plus Plan update

Under the supervision of a state court judge, the city and the administrators of the NYC Medicare Advantage Plus Plan have been working hard to improve the flow of information to city retirees and medical providers about the new plan’s procedures and benefits. The judge ruled on Dec. 14 that the new plan will take effect on April 1. 

NJ Section Age Breakdown

Growing the Garden State

Building an RTC section can take time, but there are ways to make sure the building blocks are in place. Judy Rosenstein, coordinator of the New Jersey section, says the Si Beagle courses are an important part of the process.