This September, 3,000 new teachers have joined the city Department of Education’s ranks. Their interests and backgrounds are as diverse as New York City itself. But whether they teach 3-year-olds on Staten Island or high school biology in Brooklyn, they all have one thing in common: They belong to our United Federation of Teachers family.
We are excited to welcome them. That’s why we worked together with the DOE on its New Teacher Week, which for the first time was built into the DOE-UFT contract to ensure all new teachers would be supported from the get-go.
Our strong collaboration with the DOE is one reason Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza told our new educators, “You have a phenomenal union” — because he knows that our partnership is the best way to ensure our members’ success.
When I stood up in front of hundreds of new educators at UFT headquarters in Manhattan on Aug. 19, the first morning of New Teacher Week, I was greeted by a sea of orange lanyards. That’s because we gave everyone who filled out a UFT membership card an orange lanyard to recognize their status as a proud new union member.
UFT representatives were on hand in each borough to welcome the thousands of new members who attended, answer questions and offer support.
“I feel like I’m joining a community of like-minded educators,” said Jenna Nyhus, a 2nd-grade teacher at PS/MS 34 in the East Village.
It’s important to remember that our new teachers aren’t always new to the teaching profession. In fact, many of the attendees at New Teacher Week were seasoned educators who sought out positions at the DOE because of the rights and benefits the union has fought for and won.
Michelle Bolanos, a 6th-grade special education teacher at MS 287 in the West Village, taught in charter schools and private schools for seven years before joining the DOE. “I’m excited to finally be part of a union,” she said. “The rights and benefits are clear-cut; there are no secrets,” she said. “It seems like the union stands up for and defends educators, and I’d love to learn more about what it means to be part of it.”
Like Bolanos, many of our new members have an inkling that belonging to a union will mean something special. But they may not know quite what.
“This is my first time in a union of any kind, and I have heard great things about the UFT,” said Rob DePicciotto, a special education social studies teacher at the NYC iSchool in SoHo.
We want our new members to know that, in addition to the contract and the collective bargaining rights that are so central to our experience as New York City public school educators, the union is there for members in many other ways — from pedagogical support to relief from the burden of student debt.
And we want them to know that the union has their back as they advocate for their students — that as New York City public school educators, they deserve to be treated with respect.
Maria Dotter, a 9th-grade English teacher at P35M at Beacon HS in midtown Manhattan, knows this well. Dotter had resigned from the DOE and moved to North Carolina. After just a year there, she was back at UFT headquarters for New Teacher Week, rejoining the ranks of New York City educators.
“It feels refreshing to be back in New York, where teachers are paid fairly and treated fairly and we have the support network of the union,” she said.
Just as new teachers form relationships with their students, we look forward to building relationships with our new members in the months ahead. Whether you are brand-new to the profession or a veteran educator who has joined our family, we are here to support you as you take on the challenge and the privilege of teaching in a New York City public school.