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New York TeacherFebruary 17, 2022

Volume LXIII, Number 4

UFT members began 2022 with the omicron variant of COVID-19 surging in schools. Read how members faced this latest challenge, as well as other important news and information.

Cover Story

Stephanie Nuñez

Confronting the omicron wave

Absent students and staff. Disrupted schedules. Anxiety and frustration. These five members — along with their fellow educators throughout New York City — grappled with fresh challenges as the omicron variant surged.

'Going into a battlefield against an invisible enemy'

Angela Bitterhoff, school secretary PS 228 East Elmhurst, Queens

My life changed forever in March 2020, when I contracted COVID. The fear of dying was on my mind daily. As I fought for my life, my mother-in-law also contracted it and passed away five days later. Still today I suffer from the aftereffects. Every time a new case arose with this new variant, I would ask myself: “Was the person or child next to my desk? Did I touch something they touched?” I began to feel uneasy all over again. I asked myself, “A…

Latest News

two women collect clothes
News Stories

Outpouring of support from UFT members for Bronx fire victims

UFT members came together to raise more than $10,000 and collect and distribute supplies to support the students and families affected by the deadly apartment building blaze on Jan. 9 in the Bronx.

One teacher hugs another
News Stories

Huge grievance victory in Queens

A UFT school chapter in Queens stood up to — and stood together against — a hostile principal and won.

Feature Stories

The foundation in CTE

‘The foundation of CTE’

Each year since 1984, several graduates of the city’s Career and Technical Education programs are nominated by teachers for the Success Via Apprenticeship (SVA) program, which combines college courses with apprenticeships in classrooms and in each student’s chosen industry to prepare them, over five years, to teach in CTE programs.

“SVAs are the foundation of career and technical education in New York City,” said Leo Gordon, the UFT vice president for CTE. “The SVA program marries technical skills with expert pedagogical practice to ensure instructors give students industry-standard experiences every day.”

A collaborative effort of the city Department of Education, the UFT and the City University of New York, the program prepares prospective educators using mentored teaching, industry internships and college courses at CUNY’s New York City College of Technology. …

A woman poses in front of a drawing of a map

Tour de force

Teachers' virtual travelogue allows students at the High School of Economics and Finance to travel and learn all around New York State during the pandemic without ever leaving the comfort of their lower Manhattan campus.

Two students discuss strategy

Game on!

The gaming club has been a hit among students at William E. Grady Career and Technical Education HS in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, since math teacher Peter Cozeolino started it five years ago. The program got a big boost in November 2021 when the ribbon was cut on Grady’s esports gaming room, a $150,000 project.

Member Spotlight

Christopher Arroyo
Chapter Leader Shoutout

Kudos to Christopher Arroyo, Brooklyn School for Math and Research

Christopher Arroyo, the new chapter leader at the Brooklyn School for Math and Research in Bushwick, created the high school’s first-ever consultation committee in the fall, which immediately led to improvements in school safety and compensation for remote work.

Michael Buitrago
What I Do

Michael Buitrago, coordinator of student affairs

Michael Buitrago, an ELA teacher at Flushing HS, helps organize events and activities for students to promote school spirit. "I truly believe that a large part of the high school experience is being able to look at your school like a second home," he says.

Around the UFT

Awards & Honors
Awards on a table

UFT African Heritage Committee Dinner

It was a night of food, festivity and recognition as members of the UFT African Heritage Committee gathered in Queens for the group’s 19th annual Awards Dinner Dance on Feb. 4, honoring the UFT’s Sterling Roberson with the Trailblazer Award, Queens Assembly Member Alicia Hyndman with the Frederick Douglass Award for Civil and Human Rights, and special education teacher Diamond Skinner with the Mary McLeod Bethune Award for Teacher Excellence.

Your Rights and Benefits

Know Your Benefits
Student and Paraprofessional eating

A career ladder for paraprofessionals

Paraprofessionals perform vital work in schools. There are career ladder positions available for paras as well as opportunities for educational advancement for paras interested in becoming teachers, school counselors, psychologists or other titles.

Know Your Rights
Paper with math problems, a pen, a smartphone and glasses

Preparation periods

Among the many meaningful rights and professional protections that your contract provides is time carved out each day for teachers to do professional work. Teachers are generally entitled to five prep periods per week. Prep periods are self-directed; teachers determine what to do during their prep periods.

Your Well-being
Pharmaceuticals

Addiction & recovery

A growing number of people have turned to alcohol and other substances to deal with the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are dealing with addiction or recovery, the UFT Member Assistance Program can help.

You Should Know

For Your Information
Coronavirus Covid-19

COVID-related funeral funding

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is offering financial assistance of up to $9,000 per burial to those who have paid for funeral expenses due to COVID-19.

For Your Information
Tax deductions for educators

Deductions available to educators when filing taxes

Eligible educators can deduct from their federal income taxes up to $250 of unreimbursed expenses from 2021 for books, supplies, computer equipment (including related software and services), other equipment and supplementary materials they use in the classroom, according to the IRS.

Q&A on the Issues
Judge slams a gavel

Spring break 2020

The UFT’s fight with the DOE over compensation for members who worked over the 2020 spring break ended in January when an independent arbitrator ruled that UFT members will receive one vacation day for each day they worked during what should have been paid time off.

Secure Your Future
African American Mother and young son outside

Designating your beneficiaries

You possess a valuable financial asset from participating in a defined-benefit pension system and saving money in a tax-deferred annuity. That’s why it’s important to designate beneficiaries, keep your beneficiary designations current after life-changing events and make sure the latest contact information for your beneficiaries is on file with your pension system. 

Opinions

President's Perspective
A woman and two young children wearing masks stand behind a table, looking down at something

In support of community schools

If ever there was a time when the need for schools to serve as community centers was self-evident, it is now. Our union’s United Community Schools initiative, now nearly 10 years old, serves as a lifeline for thousands of students and their families. We are asking Albany for more support because we need more community schools.

VPerspective
The foundation in CTE

A time of exciting CTE opportunities

This is a challenging time for career and technical education, but it's also a time of exciting opportunities. The pandemic has illuminated the importance of skilled trades in our day-to-day lives. Now is the time to enhance and promote these career pathways.

Editorials
Exterior façade of NYC City Hall

Fix mayoral control

The concept of mayoral control of the New York City public schools is a good one. The city’s highest elected official should be held accountable for policies that affect more than 850,000 schoolchildren. But that doesn’t mean the mayor should have the power to make unilateral decisions that shut out public school families from the policymaking process.

Editorials
emergency room

Exorbitant hospital charges

The UFT has joined with other unions and health care advocates in the Coalition for Affordable Hospitals. The coalition’s first action was to launch a petition calling on the heads of the five major hospital systems in New York City to agree to fair and transparent contracts with equitable and affordable prices for major employers, including the city.

Teaching Resources

Learning Curve
A clock and a hand

Improving executive function

When I was a high school student, nothing pleased me more than sitting down with a blank planner, color-coding my class assignments and creating a detailed to-do list of tasks I could check off as I completed them.

Linking to Learning
The logo for the Internet Archive

Using the Internet Archive

The Internet Archive is an encyclopedic clearinghouse of all things that can be digitized, including books and textbooks, video clips, audio files, images and newspapers. It’s a nonprofit, free from advertising, with free downloads. It makes an excellent source for classroom materials.

Teacher to Teacher
Sound wave with rainbow covers

Music production hits the right notes

Whether it’s recording a live instrument, working with pre-recorded sounds, sound designing, DJing or remixing, music production is a great way to engage secondary school students in learning.

Building Your Career

Inside My Classroom
Image shows a poster board with the words "Whoomp, it's a 10!" Below is an image of a ten-frame with counters

Whoomp, it's a 10!

Math teacher Lauren Cosides from the Family School in the Bronx has discovered a fun way to teach the making of 10 in math to her 1st-graders.

New Teacher Articles
Image shows three teachers seated in a classroom, wearing masks and looking toward a screen

Pandemic-related certification changes

The UFT fought alongside our state affiliate, NYSUT, for amendments to some of the state regulations that govern certification so that educators are not penalized by the interruptions caused by the pandemic.

New Teacher Diaries
Image shows a woman and two children wearing face masks

With instruction, quality outweighs quantity

I can honestly say that when I shifted my goal from “How much can I get done in a day?” to “What are the best ways I can teach my students today?” I began to feel more comfortable and confident in my classroom, says a third-year special education teacher in the Bronx. 

Retired Teachers News

Calculator insurance

All aboard! SHIP benefits upgraded

The Supplemental Health Insurance Program (SHIP), created by the UFT Retired Teachers Chapter more than 40 years ago to help retirees pay for out-of-pocket medical costs, continues to improve its benefits and increase its enrollment.

For an annual fee of $120, SHIP will supplement certain payments provided by RTC members’ New York City health coverage, up to a maximum lifetime benefit of $100,000. Spouses are eligible for the same benefits for the same fee.

Retirees must enroll in SHIP within the first year of retirement.

Supplemental benefits include ambulance transport, hearing aids, customized orthopedic shoes, surgical stockings and private-duty nursing. Benefits are improved or new benefits are added approximately every two years.

The dental benefit, SHIP’s most popular benefit, now has an annual reimbursement of …

Tom Murphy

Importance of words

So much information about this new New York City Medicare Advantage Plus Plan has by now been disseminated through meetings, webinars, town halls, email and regular mail that I hope members have evolved in their views. 

Ann Mackey golf

Fostering fellowship on the fairway

Retiree Ann Mackey founded the Coastal New Jersey Chapter of the LPGA Amateurs, the recreational amateur arm of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, fostering fellowship on the fairway and empowering women, one golf swing at a time.