Albany, NY - (March 7, 2013) - When Drew Beiter, eighth grade social studies teacher from Springville, NY signed up for Share My Lesson.com - the American Federation of Teachers' (AFT) website containing a massive library of resources written for teachers by teachers - he was delighted to be able to share resources from his own classroom with his colleagues around the country. What he didn't expect was to find lessons that would simultaneously inspire his students and move New York State elected officials to take historic action.
This morning at a press conference, Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan and Senator Adriano Espaillat called on their legislative colleagues in the State Legislature to vote on the Farm Worker Fair Labor Act, an historic measure to expand protections to New York's most vulnerable workers. Inspired by what was happening in Drew's and other classrooms and the resources available to teachers around the state and country through Share My Lesson, the Assemblywoman decided that she and her colleagues had to act.
The lessons inspiring today's action feature the work of farmworker rights advocate and 2012 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award Laureate, Librada Paz.
"As Chairwoman of the Education Committee, I am proud that this issue of state and national magnitude is receiving attention because of the work of educators," said Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan. "And my colleagues and I know we must act to address this critical civil rights issue."
Tens of thousands of teachers like Drew are accessing compelling historical resources for their classroom as a result of a partnership between the NYSUT and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, an organization that works to realize Robert Kennedy's dream of a peaceful and just world by advancing human rights, educating the public and empowering students to create change in the classroom. The RFK Center's Speak Truth to Power curriculum is a multi-faceted global initiative that uses the experiences of courageous defenders from around the world, including Librada Paz, to educate students and others about human rights and urge them to take action.
"As we work in Albany to pass the Farm Worker Fair Labor Practices Act, the Speak Truth to Power school curriculum is introducing students across New York State to human rights defenders who are fighting for justice, whether they're halfway around the world or here in our own backyard," said Kerry Kennedy, President of the RFK Center. "Through these lesson plans, students find the hero within and engage in direct action on social justice to create a more just and peaceful world. This partnership with AFT will help us reach even more educators interested in Speak Truth to Power through Share My Lesson's resources, and together we can help our young people become active, informed global citizens."
Partnering with the AFT to feature these resources on Share My Lesson is ensuring teachers across the country will have access to these powerful resources, along with thousands of other up-to-date, highly-rated materials that they can then adapt to their classroom's particular needs.
"We're thrilled to be able to connect our educators to the best resources for their classrooms through Share My Lesson," said AFT President Randi Weingarten. "This morning's development is proof positive that when teachers have access to the best digital tools and resources, they can make remarkable things happen."
Share My Lesson, a free, cutting-edge online platform for teachers by teachers, is inspired by educators' natural instincts to share and develop solutions together. When the Common Core State Standards in New York and most other states are fully implemented, they will require teachers to help students reach rigorous academic goals each year-a great objective, but one that also brings a new set of challenges, particularly when teachers have less time and fewer tools and resources to draw upon. Responding to this need and making use of best digital tools, the AFT created Share My Lesson. Teachers can plan their lessons with multiple resources, not only interacting with colleagues down the hall, but across the entire country. With the Common Core in place, what works for a teacher in New York or Florida can work for a teacher in Kansas or California, and it is all available on Share My Lesson. Since launching in June, Share My Lesson has registered more than 200,000 teachers and collected more than 300,000 educational resources, teaching tools and professional development materials. It allows teachers to do more with more resources and vetted, Common Core-aligned material – all at no cost.
"Today is a perfect example of the power that lies at the crossroads where social justice and education intersect. Share My Lesson is the vehicle that transports a lesson about a farmworker advocate in New York State across the nation and around the world," said NYSUT President Richard Iannuzzi. "Educators and their communities have a long history of working together to strengthen public education, which is undoubtedly the biggest civil and social justice issue of our time. Today those energies are aimed at bringing farmworkers' justice to New York State."
The Speak Truth to Power curriculum offers students a chance to interact with 'living history' by bringing greater understanding to various issues, in this case the critical role of farmworkers in United States history and their continuous struggle for justice.
"I'm very proud to be a part of this project and excited for the opportunities it will afford students and teachers," said Paz. "By accessing free, online resources that help bring historical moments and contemporary issues alive for students, teachers can inspire their students and ensure they are connecting in meaningful and long-lasting ways. Those of us fighting for these issues are inspired knowing teachers and students are behind us."
For more information about these resources, visit ShareMyLesson.com.