December 02, 2011

Teacher Centers 'never missed a beat'

Author: Darryl McGrath
Source: NYSUT Communications
Caption: NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira (standing) speaks to Kenmore teachers Joi Chimera (left) and Elaine Altman at the teacher center event. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

New York State Teacher Centers are not only back up and running, but thriving in an atmosphere of renewed appreciation for their work on behalf of students and classroom instructors, NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira told a recent gathering of more than 100 Teacher Center directors.

"I know that this room is filled with optimists ready to seize the opportunities ahead of us," Neira told the group. "We know the relevant work of the Teacher Centers, and we will continue to show the evidence of that work through our commitment to all students in New York state."

The 128 New York State Teacher Centers - which are staffed by NYSUT members - provide professional learning; workshops on new practices and standards; and a range of other resources to classroom instructors.

Most recently, Teacher Centers have worked with NYSUT to help prepare instructors for forthcoming major reforms mandated by the Board of Regents in K-12 instruction that will introduce a common core curriculum; the use of "data-driven instruction" that takes into account student performance in the development of classroom instruction; and new evaluation standards for teachers.

The meeting of Teacher Center directors this year, which took place in Troy Dec. 1-2, has special significance. The state had eliminated Teacher Center funding for the 2010-2011 school year, a move that forced the Centers to drastically reduce hours and rely on volunteer staffing. NYSUT aggressively pressed for the restoration of funding and, in an 11th-hour decision in the last budget session, the Legislature provided $20 million to fund the Teacher Centers for the current school year.

"We missed coming together last year, but we did not miss a beat out in the field," Neira told the directors. "And that's important to remember - that for 27 years, through good times and bad times, Teacher Centers have always walked the talk."

State Education Commissioner John King, who also spoke at the meeting, said the state appreciates the role that Teacher Centers have taken in helping introduce the reforms to instructors.

"We're very appreciative to have you as partners in this work," King said. "We're very eager to hear how it's going, and I'm looking forward to hearing what tools would be most helpful and what supports would be most helpful to you in this effort."