October 2010
September 30, 2010

Locals strive to connect, make a difference

Source: NYSUT United
Caption: Pine Valley TA member and math teacher Sarah Olson works with students during a summer enrichment camp. The camp was created by educators to keep students motivated.

Keeping their local union strong and united this school year is a key goal for the 140 members of the teaching assistants chapter of the Guilderland Teachers Association.

The local's Rep Council gave each member a lanyard in the school's red-and-white colors to start the school year with the message: "Guilderland teaching assistants make a difference."

The GTA is also launching a quarterly newsletter to inform and connect members, who are spread across seven buildings.

After a successful 14-month effort to win a good contract last year, the union is more conscious about its outreach.

"By increasing our visibility, we've become more than just another local union trying to win gains on behalf of our members," said Cheryl Ainspan, who leads the teaching assistants chapter. "Now we are seen as neighbors, friends, parents, grandparents and more. These activities have created a new sense of respect and identity among colleagues and administrators."

Pine Valley TA

Creepy crawlies and robots may not appear on a typical summer course schedule, but for students in a Chautauqua County district, learning while having fun is lesson No. 1.

Responding to a lack of opportunities for children in Pine Valley — and limited participation in traditional summer school classes — elementary teacher Sonja VanSlambrouck developed an enrichment camp for grades 1-8.

"We have a very small, rural community and there is not a lot to do during breaks and the summer time," said VanSlambrouck, immediate past president of the Pine Valley TA. "A growing problem has been how to get kids motivated."

Enter the summer enrichment camp. Participating educators were encouraged to develop classes based on their own interests.

VanSlambrouck secured a grant that provides students two healthy meals per day, and educators partnered with the parks department so students had a place to go in the afternoon.

The program gave students a more positive attitude about school. "They know that learning can be fun," VanSlambrouck said.

Lynbrook TA

Members of the Lynbrook TA are hoping to build another amazing year of giving back. Educators filled the last school year with support for community causes.

Teachers from the Suffolk County local donated food to local church pantries, and toiletries and personal supplies to a family shelter. Educators also organized donations for a backpack supply drive for needy students.

A highlight of the monthly fundraisers was a "Hope for Haiti" talent show featuring district teachers.

Craig Kirchenberg, president of the nearly 360-member local, said members hope to continue demonstrating their appreciation for the community and to foster civic responsibility and social awareness among their students.