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New York TeacherJune 6, 2019

Volume LX, Number 10

Cover Stories

Students at PS 81in Brooklyn marched through the neighborhood with signs demanding clean drinking water.
Learning Curve

Civics education

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[[nid:112192; float: right; styleName:article_x_medium_auto]]Two years ago at PS 81 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, students spoke up with a concern: They didn’t have enough of a voice in the school.

It was an eye-opening moment for PS 81’s educators. Their first response was to strengthen the school’s student government. They decided that every class, from 5th grade down through kindergarten, would hold elections and send representatives to weekly student government meetings.

To give the school a sense of community — and to make sure even its youngest learners had a say — student government representatives started by nominating a school mascot, which was then selected in a schoolwide vote.

It may not have been as high-stakes as the 2016 presidential election. But the vote at PS 81 ushered in a new era of student engagement and a growing appreciation at the …

Wayne Lydon, Fare Payment Programs director at the MTA

50 years of launching successful careers

Although they officially became Albert Shanker College Scholarships in 1998, UFT college scholarships have been helping New York City public high school students from low-income families since their inception in 1969. Many of these scholarship winners have gone on to distinguish themselves in amazing careers. Here are the stories of six of them.

Middle age woman with caption

UFT fighting to rein in hospital fees

The UFT has mounted a campaign in Albany this spring to pass legislation that would help rein in spiraling health care costs by barring hospitals from charging outrageous fees for emergency care to out-of-network patients.

Latest News

A group of UFT members from Districts 18, 21 and 22, including Brooklyn HS rep James Duncan

UFT's candidate wins Council seat

With the UFT’s support, Farah Louis won the special election on May 14 to fill the New York City Council seat left vacated by Jumaane Williams when he became the city’s public advocate. 


California teachers pay for subs during extended leave

Public school teachers in California are forced by state law to pay for their own substitute teachers when they take extended sick leave. 

McDonald’s workers strike for wages and rights

Hundreds of McDonald’s workers walked off the job in 13 cities on May 23 to call for a minimum wage of $15 per hour and expanded rights in their workplace, including protection from sexual harassment. The labor action came the same week as employees in 20 cities filed sexual harassment complaints against the fast food company.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew standing in front of room full of people

UFT lists budget priorities for Council members

As the July 1 deadline to pass the city budget approached, the UFT made a full-court press for city funding for Teacher’s Choice and four other UFT-led education programs: the United Community Schools initiative, the Positive Learning Collaborative, the BRAVE anti-bullying program and the Dial-A-Teacher homework helpline. 

Paula Washington, the chapter leader at LaGuardia HS in Manhattan, asks a questi

Health benefits highlight value of UFT membership

Telling the story of why the union matters, Geof Sorkin, the executive director of the UFT Welfare Fund, discussed the “very robust benefit package” that UFT-represented employees have.

Feature Stories

Chris Duerr runs a test with his daughter to answer the question, “Does mold gro

Students have teaching down to a science

[[nid:112226; styleName:article_x_large_auto]][[nid:112227; float: right; styleName:article_x_medium_auto]]Gail Sims Bliss remembers the science fairs of her youth, when she did experiments that had no connection to what she was learning in school. So when the science teacher was asked to coordinate a fair at PS 84 in Brooklyn, she conceived a different kind of event and turned the tables on learning.

At the school’s fifth annual Science Exploratorium on May 15, more than 400 parents and guests experienced 47 hands-on experiments led by 320 Junior Scientists, aka students, in grades 2–8, who became teachers for a day at the school in Williamsburg.

“There is discussion — an interchange — between the student and the person they are teaching. It is not a presentation,” said Sims Bliss, who teaches 3rd- to 5th-graders. “They master content and then draw on what they’ve learned to both teach and ans…

A 3rd-grader repeats a word and writes it on his slate.

Red-letter day at Spanish Spelling Bee

Ten proud “ganadores,” or winners, took their bows on May 21 at the fourth annual District 3 Spanish Spelling Bee, hosted by PS 87 on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, that featured spellers from all seven dual language schools in the district.

Paraprofessional Antonia Espinosa helps a squirrel adjust her tail before her sc

Music makers, dreamers of dreams

Students at P53K @ Spring Creek Community School in Brooklyn performed “Willy Wonka Jr.” for an audience of 300 on May 8.

Member Spotlight

Lillian Palladino
Chapter Leader Shoutout

Kudos to Lillian Palladino, Susan E. Wagner HS on Staten Island

[[nid:112189; float: right; styleName:article_x_small_auto]]Susan E. Wagner HS Chapter Leader Lillian Palladino turned to the union-negotiated process for tackling excessive paperwork to deal with onerous electronic paperwork demands from the principal at her Staten Island school.

“I am so grateful that the resolution was accomplished quickly and amicably through the new process,” she said.

In February, her principal instructed staff to upload documents, including agendas, minutes and logs, onto Google Drive and to write and upload the minutes of the common planning group’s sessions and samples of learning targets on a daily basis. Palladino promptly filed a complaint that the new work requirements were…

Desiree Mark
What I Do

What I do: Desiree Mark, teacher’s aide, ADAPT

Desiree Mark has worked for nearly 30 years at the Lawrence Avenue school of ADAPT Community Network, formerly United Cerebral Palsy of NYC, working with children whose medical, cognitive, emotional and/or physical needs require a more restrictive setting than a public school. Since 2003, the UFT has represented ADAPT employees, who now number more than 900 at schools and residences citywide.

Lillian Palladino
Chapter Leader Shoutout

Kudos to Lillian Palladino, Susan E. Wagner HS on Staten Island

Susan E. Wagner HS Chapter Leader Lillian Palladino credits the union-negotiated process for tackling excessive paperwork for resolving an issue at her Staten Island school and for “unifying staff, revitalizing morale and bridging the gap with administration.”

Around the UFT

Three people standing in front of artwork

Using art to deliver an important message

Dozens of posters from 16 schools were on display at UFT headquarters on May 21 for the awards ceremony of the UFT BRAVE program’s fifth annual video contest and the UFT’s Young Artists Unite Against Bullying poster contest.

Members from PS 106 vie for the award as the best cheering section.

District 11 Scholarship Dinner

A crowd of 600-plus packed Villa Barone Manor in the Bronx on May 8 for the UFT's third annual District 11 Scholarship Dinner, featuring dinner, dancing, awards and 52 raffle baskets.

Students from Art and Design HS in Manhattan draw portraits of members and fello

Students show off skills at fair

From vintage educational memorabilia to cutting-edge drones and 3D printers, the UFT Spring Education Conference’s exhibit hall put the best of New York City’s career and technical education high schools on display.

Group of people pose for the camera

Nurse Recognition Day

“You have different skills, certification and education, but you all have the ability to stand up in the middle of chaos — no matter how crazy it gets — and say, ‘This person matters,’” Anne Goldman, the head of the Federation of Nurses/UFT and the UFT vice president for non-DOE members, told the nurses attending the union’s sixth annual Nurse Recognition Day on April 30.

Awaiting their turn on stage, winners listen to guest speakers.

Realizing their dreams

The UFT presented $5,000 Albert Shanker Scholarships to 180 seniors from public high schools throughout the city and also honored eight graduate students on May 14 at a reception and ceremony in Shanker Hall at union headquarters in Manhattan. The ceremony marked the 50th anniversary of the annual $1 million scholarship awards celebration.

Your Rights and Benefits

Know Your Benefits

Summer prescription drug plan tips for in-service members

As summer approaches, some of you will be heading out of town or even out of the country. Remember to take care of your maintenance prescription needs before you pack your bags. For emergencies, always carry your Express Scripts prescription ID card.

Know Your Rights
Kids following teacher cartoon

School safety

Under the DOE-UFT contract, every school must have a safety committee and a safety plan created by that safety committee. As part of the 2018 contract, UFT-represented members have a new mechanism to report safety violations and resolve safety issues.

Your Well-being
Rainbow paint on a finger

Creating schools that welcome LGBTQ kids

There is a lot that educators can do to make the school environment more welcoming for these students — and a more inclusive environment for all students and staff.

You Should Know

Q&A on the Issues
Hand holding a syringe pulling vaccination

Protecting yourself from measles

A national measles outbreak, including more than 400 cases in New York City, has generated concern. This Q&A from the New York City Department of Health answers some of the most common questions.

Secure Your Future
Looseleafs labeled Retirement plan and Pension

Filing for retirement, step by step

It's the time of year when many TRS members are thinking about retirement. If you are considering this major step when the school year ends, here are some things to think about or do.


Teaching - generic

Being an informed educator

One of my responsibilities as the UFT vice president for education is to make sure you stay informed about the rollout of New York State’s Next Generation Learning Standards. In 2018, we focused on raising awareness; this year we are focused on building capacity.

President's Perspective
Labor day parade

The power of unity

It’s June, and our enemies are coming out of the woodwork with a barrage of misinformation about unions and union membership. There is a lot at stake: Our profession, our public schools and our ability to take care of ourselves and our families.

NY Voters

Our time

More than 30 of the 51 New York City Council seats — a common entry point into elected office — will open up in 2021 because of term limits. It’s an opportunity to elect more public school educators and other UFT-represented professionals to elected office.



New York City has reached the legal limit of charter schools, which has prompted a big push by charter advocates to raise the cap. Albany needs to stand firm.

Editorial Cartoons

Teaching Resources

Teacher to Teacher
Bulletin board with student work: The anatomy of a fish

Inquiry-based learning with young students

Do you want to help your students explore their interests and extend their learning beyond a scripted curriculum? Consider trying inquiry-based investigations in your early childhood classroom.

Building Your Career

Building Your Career

Who my students work hard for

At the beginning of each school year, I ask my students to write about and bring in a photo of a loved one to put on display so they can walk up to that photo in times of struggle and success to remind them who they work hard for.

New Teacher Diaries

Giving voice to the smallest complaints

I am a high school English teacher that has it pretty good. What follows is my attempt to give voice to the smallest, most insignificant complaints imaginable from my first year.

Retired Teachers News

Teachers want what students deserve

This month’s column is by Leo Casey, the executive director of the Albert Shanker Institute and a former UFT vice president, from remarks he made at a recent Democratic National Committee Labor Council meeting.

— Tom Murphy, RTC chapter leader

When teachers went on strike in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky and North Carolina in the Teacher Spring of 2018, it was not just for themselves — although their pay, pensions and health insurance have been diminishing for the last decade. It was just as much for the students and the communities they serve, so that they might have the schools they deserve.

The strikes were driven first and foremost by government underfunding of public education, which is most intense in “red” states with Republican…