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UFT welcomes new teachers

New York Teacher
UFT welcomes new teachers
Johnathan Fickies

New teachers get to know one another at the New Teacher Week event.

The UFT welcomed thousands of new members into the union at the DOE’s New Teacher Week on Aug. 19–21.

Unlike in past years, when attendance for new teachers was voluntary, this year’s event was built into the DOE-UFT contract in order to ensure that all new teachers receive the same information and training before the beginning of the school year.

Approximately 2,800 new teachers participated in New Teacher Week, where they attended UFT sessions about their pension, Welfare Fund health benefits and salary information.

As the event got underway, attendees traded their completed union enrollment cards for orange lanyards with new membership cards identifying them as new union members.

"I’ve heard good things about the UFT. It’s been very helpful and very welcoming," said Un Mi Lee, a 2nd-grade teacher at PS 234 in Tribeca. "It’s nice to feel the support, like I’m not teaching alone."

At the UFT’s "share fair," new teachers collected information about their benefits and about the services and support the UFT offers.

"I’m excited to have the benefits after years of living the actor life," said Angelique Castro, a career changer and a new theater teacher at PS 161 in Harlem. "And I’d like to expand my family, so I’m looking for information on paid parental leave."

In addition to the two days of DOE and UFT training, new teachers spent a third day at their school buildings getting acquainted with school procedures.

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza opened the event by providing new teachers with some intriguing context for their new jobs: With 330 million people living in the United States and 1.1 million New York City schoolchildren, he said, "on Sept. 5, 1 out of every 300 Americans will be sitting in a classroom in New York City."

"When you think of every career that’s out there, we are the central part of creating that generation of tomorrow," Carranza said.

UFT Vice President for Elementary Schools Karen Alford, who heads the union’s New Member Initiative, was also on hand to welcome new teachers.

"For many families, you are the voice, the path and the hope for a better tomorrow," she advised them. "And your union will be a resource and source of support throughout your career."

The DOE training included sessions on the Danielson Framework for Teaching, implicit bias and mindfulness, in which teachers were encouraged to think about planning a self-care routine that could help sustain them from the first day of school.

"It’s so important not only for us to think about mindfulness, but for us to learn how to integrate it into our classrooms for our students," said Sylvia Montijo, an 8th-grade English teacher at the ReStart Academy in Manhattan.

New teachers who attended the event enthusiastically took the opportunity to learn about both the school system and the union.

"It feels like I’m joining a strong community of teachers," said Claire Nuchtern, a 7th-grade math teacher at the Lower Manhattan Community Middle School. "I think the union is so important in making sure that teaching is sustainable for us in the long term by advocating for us."

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