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New York TeacherApril 7, 2016

Volume LVII, Number 8

Cover Stories

‘Hamilton’ star says Brooklyn teacher ‘saved my life’

[[nid:94780; float: right;]]As one of the stars of “Hamilton,” the Broadway phenomenon about the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton, Anthony Ramos has performed for celebrities from Beyoncé to Barack Obama. But he reserves his highest acclaim for someone else: the high school theater teacher who guided him toward a career he had never even dreamed of having.

“She showed me the path,” Ramos says of Sara Steinweiss, who spearheaded the theater program at New Utrecht HS for 13 years. “She’s the angel in my life who believed in me.”

Steinweiss founded New Utrecht’s theater program as a high school senior there in 1994. Six years later, she returned to her alma mater as an English teacher with an unshakable belief in the importance of the arts.

“I grew up with stories about my father, a music teacher at JHS 258 in Bed-Stuy who passed away when I was 5, and who he was as an educator,” she says. “I became a teacher to follow in his footsteps and do what he d…

Queens members prepare to board the bus to Albany for UFT Lobby Day on March 9.

Reaching out for ‘extra support’ for schools

More than 1,000 UFT members descended upon Albany on March 9 to advocate for more state funding for the city’s public schools.

First-year history teacher Michael Liegey (standing) says: “I know I have my own

The power of partnership

Wesly Toussaint is Michael Liegey’s mentor and a fellow history teacher at Metropolitan Diploma Plus HS, a transfer high school in Brownsville. It's a partnership that is enriching to both.

Latest News

Educators from MS 210 in Ozone Park, Queens.

Meeting challenges of teaching adolescents

“We are like the Rodney Dangerfield of the school system,” joked Richard Mantell, the UFT’s vice president for middle schools, as he opened the UFT’s third annual Middle School Conference on Saturday, March 19. “We get absolutely no respect.”

UFT President Michael Mulgrew

Teacher’s Choice tops UFT needs from Council

UFT President Michael Mulgrew on March 16 urged Council members to put additional money in next year’s city budget to support the programs that help teachers help students: Community Learning Schools, the Positive Learning Collaborative and Teacher’s Choice.
Members of honoree Harriet Merchant’s family after the ceremony.

Two join UFT Wall of Honor

Two names were added to the Wall of Honor in the lobby of UFT headquarters on March 14 when former officers Harriet Merchant and Aminda Gentile were recognized for their significant contributions to the union.

Special election for 2 Assembly seats on April 19

UFT members are asked to support Jaime Williams and Yuh-Line Niou for the state Assembly in the special election on Tuesday, April 19, the same day as the state’s presidential primary. Niou will be running in lower Manhattan’s 65th Assembly District for the position formerly held by Sheldon Silver.

Teach for America eliminates diversity office

Teach for America, the controversial nonprofit that places recent college graduates in low-income school districts across the country, will eliminate its diversity office this fall as part of a larger reorganization that includes layoffs.

Feature Stories

Help and hope rise from the ashes for beloved custodian

Even after a Jan. 12 blaze gutted his Bronx apartment, his family members escaping with only the clothes on their backs and landing in a Harlem homeless shelter, custodian Ralph Nelson reported to work at his Flushing middle school, just as he had for 39 years. 

Like the three-alarm fire that began in a restaurant on the first floor of the apartment building, word spread quickly throughout the IS 237 community. School community members mobilized efficiently and extravagantly, as though they had waited for a concrete reason to shower Ralph Nelson with affection. 

Roseanne Kiviat, the chapter leader at IS 237, and her counterpart Gloria Nicodemi at East-West HS, whose schools share a building in Flushing, began collecting clothes, pots and pans, coats, anything and everything the family with an 11-year-old boy needed simply …

Celebrating after a high-scoring game.

In any language, a sense of belonging

The Flying Dragons, a team of English language learners from Lower East Side Prep coached by Henry Ruan, are slaying the opposition in computer robotics competitions.

Michael Solo, chapter leader at John Dewey HS, Brooklyn

A strong contract... a reason to be Union Loud and Proud

You have a contract that defines and defends your rights. Workers without a union have no such protections.

Around the UFT

Read Across America day at Bronx Little School

Lots of serious teaching and testing can, on occasion, silence the silly and stifle small spirits at Bronx Little School.
The girls dance the night away.

Father-Daughter Dance at PS 169, the Bronx

It was a magical evening of red carpets, music, dining and dancing for the young ladies of PS 169 and their escorts.

Aquarium visit and dental screenings for PS 209 and PS 225, Brooklyn

Little Red Riding Hood’s exclamation “Grandma, what big teeth you have” was more than matched by the gasps of students from PS 209 and PS 225 in Brooklyn when they set eyes on the enormous Megladon tooth at the New York City Aquarium at Coney Island during their visit on Feb. 24.
Participants "feed" the dragon during the celebration.

Chinese New Year celebration 2016

For 30 years, UFT members have gathered to celebrate the Chinese New Year and this year was no exception as 320 participants watched the fiery dragon dancers, fed the lion envelopes of money to ensure happiness and prosperity and feasted on long-life noodles and shrimp dumplings at the Joy Luck Palace in Chinatown on March 11.
The Vista Academy drama club presents Middle School Voices Matter: The Civil Rig

A Season of Nonviolence event featuring one of the ‘Little Rock nine’

A crowded and hushed Shanker Hall listened as Minnijean Brown-Trickey told hundreds of middle and high school students what it was like that morning 57 years ago when, as an African-American student their age, she walked through crowds of hissing, cursing white adults and up the steps of Little Rock HS to start school.

You Should Know

You Should Know

Free e-books for low-income children

Teachers and other staff working in Title I schools can register children for the Open eBooks app, which offers thousands of best-selling books to low-income children to read for free.
Secure Your Future
The over-80 crowd

The over-80 crowd

Remember the old joke, "If I knew I was going to live so long I would have taken better care of myself"?

Secure Your Future

21 million Americans lack retirement savings

Thirty million Americans used money from their retirement savings to respond to an emergency in the past year.

Secure Your Future
update your beneficiary forms

Update your beneficiary forms

It's important that every member of TRS review and update beneficiary forms after a marriage, the birth of children, a divorce or any change in familial circumstances.


President's Perspective
Michael Mulgrew listing image Headshot

High stakes in presidential race

When New Yorkers vote in the presidential primary on April 19, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Richard Mantell

The power of teacher leadership roles

In a public school system as large and diverse as New York City’s, there is an enormous amount of untapped expertise and creativity among teachers.


Charter boosters’ false claims

Charter advocates have made exorbitant claims for their own success, but sometimes the facts get in the way of a good story. The latest example concerns school safety.

Diversity matters

New York City isn’t known as a vibrant melting pot for nothing; the rich diversity of our population is the bedrock of our city.
Editorial Cartoons

Teaching Resources

Research shows

Einstein’s struggles motivate students

Learning about the personal and intellectual struggles of famous scientists spurred teens in high-needs New York City high schools to do better in science, according to new research published in the Journal of Educational Psychology.
Teacher to Teacher

Free app scores points with kindergarten class

ClassDojo is a free app for engaging with students and parents that can be used on iPhones, Androids and desktop computers.

Building Your Career

Building Your Career

Oh, the places they'll go

In March, my students learned about Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss.
New Teacher Profiles

Have art cart, will travel

Marilyn Casey is a 28-year-old woman who gets into her pajamas in the early evening and is sound asleep by 9:30. She is not to be pitied, however, because unlike most adults Casey goes to bed with a smile, thinking about the next day at work, where she will arrive, peppy and prepared, 45 minutes early.

Retired Teachers News

Our endorsement process for the 2016 presidential election

As the presidential campaign unfolds, we remember why the UFT is political. Al Shanker, our former president, advised us early on to support our friends and oppose our enemies. As the UFT director of legislation and political action for 16 years, I developed a corollary: Friend or foe, hold his feet to the fire. These union practices deserve ongoing discussion.

Back in the early spring of 2015 as the presidential campaign was getting underway, the AFT decided that the issues confronting the nation were so important it would begin its endorsement process early to see what members were thinking. It is the AFT, our national affiliate — rather than the UFT or NYSUT, our statewide affiliate — that makes presidential endorsements, and its criteria are similar to UFT criteria.

The AFT started its endorsement process by asking all of the candidates to come to AFT headquarters for an interview. However, none of the …