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New York TeacherApril 5, 2018

Volume LIX, Number 8

Cover Stories

Seung Lee, teacher and chapter leader, PS 1, Manhattan

What a difference the UFT makes

Rachel Maller Former charter school teacher

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In 2012, when I accepted a position at a charter school, I signed a whole bunch of things, including a piece of paper that said, “In our school, everyone is an administrator and everyone is a custodian.” I thought it was a euphemism for “We all help each other out,” but it turned out that they took it quite literally.

Read more   Maureen Finn Taught out of state

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A large contingent of students from Martin Van Buren HS in Queens Village made t

Taking a stand against gun violence

It was not yet dawn on Saturday, March 24, when 38 students at Martin Van Buren HS in Queens Village boarded a bus bound for Washington, D.C.

“Once they learn how to hit a golf ball that’s not moving, that sets them up for
Learning Curve

PE Works transforms gym class

Physical education is changing. In 2015, the Department of Education announced a multiyear, multimillion dollar initiative known as PE Works, which seeks to transform the concept of gym class from a place where kids pelt each other with dodgeballs to “an important academic subject that teaches students to be physically active, work as a team and set fitness goals that can last a lifetime.”

Latest News

Pay increases, no givebacks for NYU Langone–Brooklyn nurses

With higher voter turnout than ever before, Federation of Nurses/UFT members employed at NYU Langone–Brooklyn, formerly Lutheran Hospital, overwhelmingly ratified a new contract on March 4 with no givebacks and a 2 percent pay increase in each of the two years.

Maspeth HS members display their purple power.

Purple reigns

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8 was “Press for Progress,” and UFT members did just that by wearing purple — the color traditionally associated with International Women’s Day — in support of the UFT’s campaign for paid parental leave. 

Members and parents on the Staten Island bus headed for Albany are ready and eag

Lawmakers hear educators’ priorities

In the wake of a new federal tax policy that hurts New York State, the UFT sent more than 1,100 members and public school parents to Albany on March 19 to talk face-to-face with state lawmakers about the need to protect New York City public schools from Washington, D.C.

An awakening in West Virginia

West Virginia teachers recently gave the nation a lesson in the labor movement’s power when workers stand united.

Rachel Walden Cranston, John Chencello, Erin Fitzgerald

‘Teaching students to think for themselves’

Middle school educators embraced their roles as “mentors, counselors, parents and advisors” at the UFT's 5th annual Middle School Conference held at union headquarters on March 3.

Feature Stories

Seung Lee, teacher and chapter leader, PS 1, Manhattan

Seung Lee, former charter school teacher

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Being in a charter school means being alone. I would not recommend my experience to anyone.

I have been a New York City public school teacher for 15 years, but early in my career I taught for two years at a charter school in Manhattan.

At that charter school, I didn’t negotiate my employment contract. I just signed it.

Although the salary was on par with public schools, I could be asked to work weekends or to work late. I wasn’t getting paid for it, but I felt obligated. I couldn’t say no. I could complain to my principal, but he was usually the one who made the request.

I had no one to talk to if I had a problem. There was also no training. It was sink or swim.

The health benefits were so confusing; the same with dental insurance. I probably paid out-of-pocket much more than I should have.

When the board reformatted the entire school after my second year, I would have had to interview for my…

Larissa Clark, teacher, Marble Hill HS for International Studies, the Bronx

Larissa Clark, a former Oklahoma teacher

Growing up in Oklahoma, you tend to only hear about unions in a negative light. So when I made a career change six years ago and became a teacher in New York City, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the UFT.

Rachel Maller, teacher, PS 314, the Bronx

Rachel Maller, former charter school teacher

In 2012, when I accepted a position at a charter school, I signed a whole bunch of things, including a piece of paper that said, “In our school, everyone is an administrator and everyone is a custodian.” I thought it was a euphemism for “We all help each other out,” but it turned out that they took it quite literally.

Member Spotlight

Chapter Leader Shoutout
Diane Mendez 178-03

Kudos to Diane Mendez, PS 92, the Bronx

Chapter Leader Diane Mendez pulled out every stop in her uphill fight — and ultimately unsuccessful bid — to save PS 92 in the Bronx from the chopping block.

Around the UFT

Kaitlyn Sullivan (left), a guidance counselor, and Christina Joubert, a speech-l

Future in Focus Career and College Fair

About 550 high school students had the chance to explore opportunities offered by 25 unions and 37 colleges at the second annual Future in Focus Career and College Fair, sponsored by the UFT’s High Schools Division and the New York City Central Labor Council, on March 1 at UFT headquarters in Manhattan.

Koretz discusses his book as Mulgrew listens.

Discussion about ‘The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better’

That a cadre of teachers was taught to believe that test prep was actually quality teaching is the most dangerous and lasting legacy of the United States’ ill-fated obsession with high-stakes standardized tests, according to “The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better,” a new book by a Harvard professor.

Dr. Norton addresses the group.

UFT Welfare Fund Medical Learning Series

More than 95 UFT members learned about the latest findings and progress in breast cancer research at a UFT Welfare Fund Medical Learning Series seminar presented by Dr. Larry Norton of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center on March 13 at union headquarters in Manhattan.

International School for Liberal Arts teacher Zobada Garcia (back, center) and h

Advance screening of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’

About 275 students and teachers enjoyed the UFT's advance screening of “A Wrinkle in Time,” the new film based on Madeleine L’Engle’s classic novel that gives students the inspiration to discover their own potential, at a midtown Manhattan movie theatre on March 8.

Students don lion masks to join the dragon dancers and entertain members.

Lunar New Year banquet

The annual Lunar New Year banquet at Joy Luck Palace in Manhattan's Chinatown on March 9 marked 30 years that the UFT has observed the holiday, which this year celebrates the Year of the Dog.

Your Rights and Benefits

Know Your Benefits
Hand drawing the word benefits

Special coordination of benefits

If you and your spouse or domestic partner are both in-service UFT members, you don’t have to choose one or the other’s benefits — you have the benefit of both when it comes to certain UFT Welfare Fund benefits.

You Should Know

Secure Your Future
TRS resources and information

TRS resources and information

The Teachers’ Retirement System’s primary responsibility is providing retirement benefits, but TRS is also committed to offering exceptional service and a variety of resources to union members including the TRS website, a call-in center, a walk-in center, and many publications describing TRS benefits and services.


Karen Alford checks in on PS 146, Brooklyn.

Play with a purpose

It’s time to get serious about play. That’s the message of our 2018 UFT Early Childhood Education Conference, which is built on research that shows that play is the way young children learn.

President's Perspective
Karen Saunders (left) and Rytva Soni of the Bronx Collaborative MS hold up signs

Time for common sense on guns

We’re living through an amazing moment. It’s clear that our elected officials in Washington, D.C., have abdicated their responsibility when it comes to gun violence, but students are taking the lead to advocate for their own safety amid this epidemic.

A large contingent of students from Martin Van Buren HS in Queens Village made t

Students take the lead

Will this time be different? That’s the question, still unanswered, in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14.


Lesson from W. Va.

More than 20,000 teachers across West Virginia have shown the power of unity when working people come under attack.

Teaching Resources

Teacher to Teacher

Snacking on nonfiction in ELA class

For some reason, suffering appeals to my 6th-graders as readers. Because of this consistent interest, each spring I organize book clubs around what I refer to as “social issue” books. This year, I decided to focus exclusively on nonfiction books.

Research shows

Interim testing helps learning process

Interim, low-stakes testing is not just an assessment tool but also facilitates the learning of new material, finds new research in the Journal of Educational Psychology. 

Building Your Career

Building Your Career

Seusstastic style

My 1st-grade English as a new language students create rhyme patterns to mimic Dr. Seuss.

New Teacher Articles

All you need to know about getting tenure

Gaining tenure is an important milestone for new teachers. There are many steps you can take to prepare for your tenure decision.

Retired Teachers News

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RTC Information

Reporting TRS distributions on your local income tax

If you received one or more of the distributions listed below during 2017, you are required to report the total gross amount of the distribution in box 16a and the taxable amount of the distribution in box 16b on your 2017 federal income tax form 1040.

The gross amount of distribution can be found in box 1 and the taxable amount of the distribution can be found in box 2a of your 1099-R, which was mailed to you in January.

The following are taxable distributions: Withdrawal of taxable excess contributions while in active service or withdrawal of taxable excess retirement;  Taxable loan amount at retirement;  Defaulted loans;  The taxable portion of your retirement allowance from the Qualified Pension Plan;  Your total annuity payments for the year from the Tax-Deferred Annuity Program;  Your total withdrawal from the Tax-Deferred Annuity Program during the calendar year, including the refund of contributions after re…

Lillian Schwartz with Mulgrew and Murphy, blows kisses to the camera
RTC Chapter Leader Column

Stay informed on pension issues

I have asked Debra Penny, a teacher-member of the New York City Teachers’ Retirement Board and the UFT liaison to the RTC, to be a guest columnist this month. From time to time, we invite members to offer timely information that can be helpful to our readers.


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2017 sales tax break for New York, Florida and other states’ residents

Federal tax law allows taxpayers who elect to itemize deductions to deduct their state and local: income taxes or sales taxes, but not both, to reduce their federal income tax.