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April 16, 2008

Retiree Members of the Year: Louise Levine-Rosenthal and John Soldini

Source: NYSUT Constituency Awards 2008

Louise Levine-Rosenthal

Retiree Council 19

Louise Levine-RosenthalLouise Levine-Rosenthal has been involved in the union at all levels  - local, state and national  - since entering the profession in the 1970s. She became active in all areas of the Mineola Teachers Association, including building rep, grievance chair, negotiator and numerous elected positions. She has been energetic in her positions on issues of importance in all union matters and has served as the association representative to many community events. One of her former students was State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who has recognized her as a memorable teacher in his life.

Levine-Rosenthal has served on NYSUT's Committee of 100, has participated in American Federation of Teachers-Association of Retired Americans lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., and was one of the retirees escorted out of Peter King's office. She has been diligent in support of issues important to the quality of life of retirees. A strong opponent to the privatization of Social Security and Medicare, the NYSUT-trained speaker has presented these issues at various venues on Long Island. She is a strong supporter of LIARA (Long Island Association of Retired Americans) and serves on its executive board. As such, she meets with leaders of retiree groups in the labor movement.

As president of Retiree Council 19, Levine-Rosenthal presented at many leadership training conferences. She has attended leadership training sessions at NYSUT headquarters and in Washington at AFT headquarters.

She worked actively to promote pension COLAs and COLA improvements, and has been an active leader to bring in new retiree chapters. She also has served as a committee member on the NYSUT Making Strides Against Breast Cancer effort for Nassau County. Levine-Rosenthal received the AFT Living Legacy Award in 2006.

John Soldini

United Federation of Teachers

John SoldiniSince graduating from City College of New York in 1961, John Soldini has devoted himself to the teaching profession. Like many teachers, the concerns raised in his social studies classroom led to his active involvement in a wide range of community, political and educational causes.

He has worked to raise academic and disciplinary standards for students and to raise the status of the teaching profession. In these efforts, he was supported by the United Federation of Teachers.

As a social studies teacher at Tottenville High School on Staten Island, Soldini introduced a number of innovations starting in the 1960s. He initiated independent studies courses, as well as a wide selection of mini-courses to give students greater choice in their academic offerings. In the early 1970s, he joined with two Board of Education officials to pioneer the first alternative high school on Staten Island, Concord High School, an early example of a small school designed to help at-risk students.

Soldini's involvement in teacher unionism began early and by 1977 he was the district representative for Staten Island, a position he held until 1987. His proudest achievements during that time were helping to develop cooperation among the organizations that represent teachers, parents and administrators; and his role in creating the Staten Island Continuum, a link between Staten Island high schools and the College of Staten Island.

From 1987 until he retired in 2002, Soldini was the elected UFT vice president for academic high schools. He placed a priority on advancing educational reform.

He says: "My main goal has been to enhance teacher professionalism by gaining for teachers a greater voice in school decisions, a greater choice in where and what they teach, greater freedom to experiment in the classroom and greater flexibility with regard to contractual regulations so they respect the uniqueness of every school."