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New York TeacherFebruary 7, 2019

Volume LX, Number 6

Cover Stories

Encouraged by their sister Susan O’Rourke (second from right), a school secretar

Para family trees

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[[nid:110594; float: right; styleName:article_x_small_auto]]Susan O’Rourke, a school secretary at PS 23 on Staten Island, encouraged her three older sisters to become paraprofessionals.

Anthony Sanchez, his wife, Alejandra, and his mother, Juana, are all paraprofessionals in schools in Queens.

Christina Cingari and her daughter, Brianna, are both paraprofessionals who followed in the footsteps of their mother and grandmother, Mary Valva, now retired.

These three families are among the hundreds of New York City families with more than one member — siblings, parents, aunts and uncles and, in some cases, three generations — employed as paraprofessional…

At a Meet the President event for District 79 members in Manhattan on Jan. 24, U

Lawmakers vote to cut tie between state test scores and teacher ratings

In a huge victory for the UFT, both houses of the state Legislature on Jan. 23 voted overwhelmingly to end the requirement that state test scores be used in evaluating teachers in New York State.

Dollar sign

2% pay increase on Feb. 14

The salaries of UFT-represented employees covered by ratified Department of Education-UFT contracts will increase by 2 percent on Feb. 14.

Latest News

Two women and one man standing and smiling

Teacher voice the focus of UFT TV ad

With the new Department of Education-UFT contract that increases educators’ professional voice going into effect, it’s only fitting that the union’s latest television ad campaign focuses on that very subject.

Unionists rally as Supreme Court hears arguments in Friedrichs case

Unionized workforce sees slight decline in 2018

Slightly fewer U.S. workers belonged to a labor union in 2018 than in 2017.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies before the Senate Appropriations Commi

House Democrats to scrutinize Betsy DeVos

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will face a new level of oversight this year with Democrats taking over the House of Representatives from Republicans who were friendlier to her privatization agenda.

West Virginia teachers face new battle

Nearly a year after their lengthy walkout resulted in better pay, West Virginia public school teachers are back on edge after the introduction of a bill in the West Virginia State Senate in late January to weaken unions and redirect tax revenue from public schools to private and charter school options.

Teachers walk the picket line at Sheridan Street Elementary School during the strike in Los Angeles.

Community backing key to LA teachers’ successful strike

One of the most distinctive elements of the successful nine-day teachers’ strike in Los Angeles in January was the powerful level of community support the teachers had. That was the result of a deliberate effort by United Teachers Los Angeles, the 32,000-member American Federation of Teachers affiliate, to build mutually respectful alliances with parents and community groups around a common agenda.

Feature Stories

Actor Annie Golden (left) reads a book written by playwright David Caudle (middl

Booking stars

They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway. Just 20 blocks south, the fluorescent lights at PS 347 are just as illuminating.

Once a month, Broadway stars shine exclusively for the students of PS 347, also known as the American Sign Language and English Lower School. Since 2015, teacher Gary Wellbrock has been inviting actors to his classroom to read to his students through his Broadway Books First Class program.

Some of the performers are authors of children’s books who bring their own work to read. Others read books chosen for them by Wellbrock, who tries to match the theme of the book with the performer’s personality or back story. Wellbrock has hosted Tony, Emmy and Oscar award winners, including Stockard Channing, Nathan Lane and Julianne Moore.

A sign language interpreter joins the performer to translate for students, most of whom are deaf or hard of hearing. Students get the opportunity to introduce themselves in American Sign Language and to ask questions. Each student…

MS 247 teacher Sasha Arias (second from right) and three of the students in the

Planting seeds of change at Manhattan school

A new community service club at MS 247 in Manhattan is changing the lives of its student members and the people their projects benefit.

Museum educator Jessica Colón and students display the bedwarmer that would have

Portal to the past

For Bronx 1st-graders from PS 121, a visit to the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum in Pelham Bay Park opened a window into the world of the early 19th century, when their borough was still farmland.

More in Feature Stories

Member Spotlight

Deborah Navarro
Chapter Leader Shoutout

Kudos to Deborah Navarro, PS 226, Brooklyn

[[nid:110549; float: right; styleName:article_x_small_auto]]Chapter Leader Deborah Navarro has built a “union proud, union strong” chapter at PS 226 in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, based on what she calls “true collaboration” with her principal.

She began building that collaboration by meeting with the new principal, Evan Klein, before the school year began in 2016. Klein, in turn, invited each teacher at the K–8 school to meet with him one-on-one.

“And so the transition was not intimidating for any of us,” Navarro said. “We understood he had an open, honest ear to our needs.”

Navarro’s strong and active seven-member Consultation Committee secured Klein’s consent to change the schedule of the monthly UFT chapter meetings from one lunch period on Monday and one on Tuesday to back-to-back Friday lunch periods so guest speakers could talk to the entire chapter. And she worked with him on the school calendar to ensure consultatio…

Kathy Zeltmann
What I Do

What I do: Kathy Zeltmann, occupational therapist

Kathy Zeltmann works at PS 71 and Grover Cleveland HS, both in Ridgewood, Queens, helping students to discover the skills they have and develop them so they have the best possible chance to learn and to achieve their best possible life.

William Green engages with his AP chemistry students.

‘It gets better’

In William Green’s AP chemistry classroom at Frederick Douglass Academy III in the South Bronx, every student-teacher interaction is deeply informed by Green’s journey from homelessness to becoming a finalist for the 2019 New York State Teacher of the Year.

Around the UFT

District 3 paraprofessionals (from left) Trina James, Racquel Romero-Carr and Lo

Pre-Women’s March breakfast forum

The next big challenge for the UFT and the nonprofit Eleanor’s Legacy is to make sure “the New York City Council accurately represents the 4 million women and girls who live in the city,” said Brette McSweeney, the executive director of Eleanor’s Legacy, at a pre-Women’s March breakfast forum on Jan. 19.

Currently, only 11 of the City Council’s 51 members are women.

McSweeney’s group and the UFT co-hosted the discussion, titled “Helping More Women Win Elected Office,” at PS 191 in Manhattan. UFT President Michael Mulgrew, who was joined by UFT Vice Presidents Janella Hinds and Karen Alford, told a packed auditorium of UFT members, “Don’t think you can’t run,” because “every single person in the ro…

 Assembly Education Chair Mike Benedetto and state Senate Education Chair Shelle

New York State legislative reception

UFT President Michael Mulgrew and other union officers gathered at the Corning Tower Observation Deck in Albany on Jan. 28 to discuss the union’s 2019 legislative priorities with state lawmakers.

Nine of the candidates for the vacant public advocate post answer questions.

Public advocate town hall

With the special election for New York City Public Advocate set for Tuesday, Feb. 26, nine of the candidates vying for the post attended a UFT forum at the union’s Brooklyn borough office on Jan. 10 in the last in a series of four town halls around the city.

Your Rights and Benefits

Know Your Benefits

Member-only discounts

Did you know that your UFT membership is a special pass to savings — on movie and theater tickets, travel, clothing, health and wellness, school supplies and more?

Know Your Rights
Mold on wall

Environmental health and safety hazards

You have the right to work in a healthy and safe school building. The UFT’s Safety and Health Department can work with you and your school if you encounter environmental health and safety hazards.

Your Well-being
Multicultural Kids Diversity cartoon

Tips for developing cultural competence

To do their jobs well, educators need to understand their students’ lives and cultures. This involves listening and asking questions with humility. Being open-minded and attentive to individual students and their circumstances are key to cultural competency.

You Should Know

Q&A on the Issues
Talking with kids about cancer puzzle piece Graphic

Talking with children about cancer

The UFT Welfare Fund has expanded its relationship with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) to offer New York City public school professionals access to Talking with Children about Cancer, a program designed to help adults communicate with children who have a loved one in their life with cancer.

Secure Your Future
Sample of social security card

Social Security must be safeguarded

Social Security is not ONLY a retirement plan. It's the single most efficient, multi-faceted social insurance program ever developed in this nation. As an anti-poverty measure, nothing has been more effective. But it's been mischaracterized by its opponents.


UFT members march down Fifth Avenue.

Organizing for all of our sakes

Our hard-earned rights and benefits become meaningless unless we’re willing to defend them. Standing up for ourselves and our students through collective action looks different from one school to the next, but taken all together, our ability to act collectively makes us a powerful force for advancing education in our city.

President's Perspective

A new day for teacher evaluation

Between our recent collective bargaining on teacher evaluation and this latest bill, we’re moving toward a system that no longer makes test scores the focal point of teacher evaluations. It’s all part of recasting the evaluation system as an opportunity to support the professional growth of teachers throughout their careers.

NY Voters

Helping NY’s voters

The newly elected Democratic majority in the New York State Senate passed long-stymied electoral reforms on Jan. 14 that will propel our state toward its rightful place as a progressive beacon for the rest of the United States.


On the backs of working people

There are truths about the human cost of the 34-day federal government shutdown that we should remember for a long time to come.

Teaching Resources

Learning Curve
Hannah Bernard (left) and Melissa Gomes, teachers at PS 446 in Brownsville, Broo

Why looping works

PS 446 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, has found that "looping," a model that keeps a teacher with the same group of students for more than one grade, allows educators to become grounding, guiding forces in their students’ lives.

Teacher to Teacher

Breaking the monotony of Regents test prep

When a teacher can find innovative and creative ways to approach mundane subjects, it can truly get a student’s creative juices flowing. Wooden blocks helped build a Regents Prep program that does just that.

Building Your Career

New Teacher Diaries

It’s not your auntie’s classroom

I asked my aunt, a former teacher, for her sage advice before I started teaching. Her 40-plus years in education had taught her myriad lessons, many of which she passed on to me. But I still had a lot to learn.

Building Your Career

Our classroom quilt

Before my 9th-grade ELA students read "A Quilt of a Country" by Anna Quindlen, they created personal identity projects.

Retired Teachers News

Council created to help chapter grow

New blood is important to any organization or institution so that it continues to maintain its mission and prepare for a dynamic future. With that in mind, the UFT Retired Teachers Chapter Executive Committee, at my request, recently authorized the creation of a Leadership Council.

These are some of the considerations that helped chart this new direction.

The UFT Retired Teachers Chapter should continually grow and change in order to effectively serve the interests of the chapter and our UFT rank-and-file retiree membership all within the context of maintaining successful existing practices and benefits.

It is the mandate of the RTC to preserve and, when possible, to enhance the economic, professional, organizational and political well-being of retirees consistent with the goals and policies of the UFT, its state and national affiliates, and t…