Maria Neira, an elementary school bilingual teacher who rose through the ranks of union leadership to become a nationally recognized expert on educational issues, is a vice president of New York State United Teachers, the statewide federation representing more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care across New York State.
Neira oversees the union's initiatives on educational policy and is NYSUT's frontline advocate to the New York State Board of Regents and the State Education Department. As a result of her leadership, NYSUT is now in the field-testing phase of its pioneering Innovation Initiative, supported by competitive grants from the American Federation of Teachers and the U.S. Department of Education. The initiative brings together labor-management teams from five school districts to develop a meaningful system of teacher evaluation and professional development. At her direction, the NYSUT Education & Learning Trust, a professional development arm, has strengthened and expanded educational opportunities for teachers and other school staff.
Neira has been appointed by President Obama to serve on the President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. She also serves on the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Advisory Council. She is also the founding publisher of Educator's Voice.
Her prominence in the labor movement reflects NYSUT's affiliations with both the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association at the national level, as well as the AFL-CIO. An AFT vice president, she also serves as a vice president of the New York State AFL-CIO Executive Council and as a member of the board of directors of the AFL-CIO's Workforce Development Institute. She is a member of the New York State Workforce Investment Board, the Greater Capital Region United Way Board of Directors, Capital District's 100 Hispanic Women, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement and the National Association of Latino Elected Officials Education Fund. She directs NYSUT's fundraising as a statewide flagship sponsor for American Cancer Society programs, including the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer annual walks in which union volunteers have raised millions for the cause. She has served on many state committees, including the governor's Children's Cabinet Advisory Board and the State Committee of Practitioners, and is a member of several other professional organizations.
Neira is a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor from the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations, the Educational Leadership Award of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade and the YMCA Northeast New York Woman of Achievement Award. She has been honored by the United Federation of Teachers Hispanic Affairs Committee, the Hispanic Latino Cultural Center, Long Island Latino Teachers Association, the Schenectady Hispanic Heritage Committee and the Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York.
Neira previously served as assistant to the president on education issues for the United Federation of Teachers, NYSUT's affiliate in New York City public schools, where she directed a wide range of education initiatives and helped develop strategic plans for education reform. She also served as director of the UFT's Special Educator Support Program. Neira began her teaching career in New York City in 1977 and was a fourth-grade bilingual teacher at the Bilingual Bicultural Mini School in Manhattan.
She is married to Richard Neira. Neira holds a B.A. and an M.S. from Hunter College of the City University of New York.