April 08, 2017

Delegates honor Fortino's service

Source: NYSUT Communications
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In a touching tribute, delegates approved a Special Order of Business honoring Vice President Catalina Fortino's lifelong commitment to unionism, students and the preservation of public education.

Fortino, who is retiring after many years of leadership with NYSUT and the United Federation of Teachers, was recognized for her passion and perseverance in a rousing speech by UFT's Leroy Barr, who offered the Special Order of Business.

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  • Special Order of Business (click to view)

    Honoring Vice President Catalina Fortino for Her Lifelong Commitment to the Union, Students and the Preservation of Public Education

    Whereas, maestra Catalina Fortino, respected statewide as an exemplary educator and union leader, has throughout her long career served her students, her union and the institution of public education with singular distinction; and

    Whereas, Catalina Fortino, who emigrated to the United States from Argentina with her family as an English language learner and has dedicated herself personally and professionally to improving opportunities and outcomes for students with similar challenges; and

    Whereas, inspired by her mother and her 7th grade teacher Norm Sherman, Catalina Fortino earned a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education and a Master’s Degree in Special Education and Bilingual Education at Queens College and then embarked on what would become a life-long mission to help English language learners and students with special needs; and

    Whereas, Catalina Fortino embodied the highest standards of the teaching profession as an early childhood special-education teacher at PS 3, a bilingual teacher at PS 321 and then as a bilingual education evaluator in District 15; and

    Whereas, early in her career, Catalina Fortino realized that her students needed a voice, she became active in the union so she could advocate for her students and her colleagues in the United Federation of Teachers; and

    Whereas, Catalina Fortino continually strengthened the teaching profession as the Chair of the NYSUT Bilingual Committee of Practitioners, the Co-chair of the New York State Professional Standards and Practices Board for Teaching and as a member of the New York State Committee of Title I Practitioners and the American Federation of Teachers English Language Learners Task Force; and

    Whereas, Catalina Fortino is a nationally recognized expert in professional development, curriculum, assessments and program development in the teaching profession and is a pre-eminent specialist in school reform in high needs schools; and

    Whereas, in 2011 Catalina Fortino’s sterling achievements resulted in her appointment as the director of the UFT Teacher Center and election by her colleagues as the UFT’s Vice President for Education; and

    Whereas, Catalina Fortino’s professional and union work culminated in her subsequent election in 2014 as First Vice President of New York State United Teachers and as Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers; and

    Whereas Catalina Fortino has served her union at the state and national level with the utmost dedication and integrity, advocating strongly and effectively for her students, her colleagues and the teaching profession from pre-K through post-graduate, now, therefore, be it

    Resolved, that this body pause in its deliberations to recognize Catalina Fortino upon the occasion of her retirement and thank her for her tireless efforts on behalf of the union, students and the institution of public education throughout her long and illustrious career.

A video honoring her service included Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa and UFT President Michael Mulgrew, who praised Fortino's grace, class and dignity, and her tireless work on behalf of English language learners and students with disabilities. Fortino was also presented with an Assembly proclamation advanced by Assembly Education Chair Cathy Nolan acknowledging her outstanding work and national recognition.

The tribute, fittingly, came after Fortino unexpectedly tossed aside her prepared speech and instead simply thanked her "dream team" staff and yielded her time to the delegates so they could proceed with their important work.

After the Special Order of Business was approved and delegates rose in standing ovation, Fortino offered just one humble response: "I give thanks to my maker for guiding my steps in this journey."