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teacher recruitment
Sep 21

Partnership is a lifeline for teachers from Puerto Rico

Though he’s an accomplished educator with eight years of experience in Puerto Rico, Emil Rivera was a little nervous when he came to Buffalo to be a high school bilingual special education teacher.

“I had my doubts,” said Rivera. “I was prepared to be all on my own.”

Instead, just five days after arriving from Puerto Rico in late August, Rivera was pleasantly surprised — and immensely grateful — for the immediate support from Gliset Colón from the Buffalo State College bilingual education program and Judith Harris, a faculty member and director of the Tonawanda-Grand Island Teacher Center. It was exactly the kind of welcome wagon he needed.

“I feel like a little boy starting school,” said Rivera, as he picked up an Acer tablet and teacher education textbook provided through a regional teacher center grant. He also listened intently as teachers from last year’s program described how the emotional, instructional and technical supports they received were nothing short of “lifelines” for their success.

Rivera is one of 20 teachers from Puerto Rico who were recruited by Buffalo City Schools to fill much-needed bilingual educator positions. While Buffalo has historically had a large Spanish-speaking population, the numbers have grown dramatically since last year’s Hurricane Maria. In 2017–18, more than 500 students from Puerto Rico enrolled in Buffalo schools, with many more arriving over the summer. Statewide, as of the end of last school year, more than 2,500 students from Puerto Rico relocated to New York schools. As a result, districts around the state are struggling with a severe shortage of bilingual educators.

While the New York Board of Regents approved one-year emergency certification for teachers from Puerto Rico and the state had allowed in-state tuition for SUNY and CUNY students from Puerto Rico, these newcomers face a number of challenges to becoming permanently certified teachers.

“It’s a very complicated process, with varying individual circumstances,” said Colón, who coordinates the college’s bilingual graduate certification program.

Educators with less than three years of teaching in Puerto Rico public schools (or those from higher education or private schools) must pass all of New York’s certification exams, including the edTPA portfolio assessment — all while settling into a new home and teaching full time. Educators with more experience are exempted from those requirements but need to complete a bilingual extension certificate and, in many cases, earn a master’s degree.

“While many of these teachers are highly qualified educators, they are English language learners themselves and the challenges are great,” said Harris, who worked with Colón to provide a crash course on edTPA requirements for the newcomers. “They have to work even harder.”

Stefany Arce, who is starting her second year as a bilingual kindergarten teacher, said the tablet the program provides is like a lifeline. She uses it to translate her college textbook readings, discussions at faculty meetings and for classroom learning center activities.

Then there are the emotional supports.

“The traumainformed care we provide to our students is to some extent what we need to provide for these teachers,” Harris said. “Just like the students, these teachers are displaced, too.”

Colón, whose own family emigrated from Puerto Rico, said many of these teachers faced difficult decisions to leave their homeland and they are separated from their family. That’s why she tries to create a family-like support system and connect the newcomers with essential community-based groups.

Colón and Harris, who are both members of United University Professions at Buffalo State, said the retention rate for the program has so far been promising, with all eight of last year’s cohort returning to teach in Buffalo and taking courses at the college this fall. Under School of Education Dean Wendy Paterson, Buffalo State works closely with area teacher centers, building bridges between higher ed and P-12 educators.

“The support system is working, but continued funding is uncertain,” Colón said, noting tuition assistance and state Teachers for Tomorrow grants are in question. While the $2,200 teacher center grant provided books and tablets for this group, the state cut teacher center funding for this school year.

“These teachers need our help,” Harris said. “If we don’t support these teachers, we will never be able to meet the needs of these children who are growing in numbers daily.”

Sep 21

Back to School Immigration Update

Dear Immigration Advocates,

As we begin a new school year, despite the excitement of new students and possibilities, a cloud of uncertainty remains around our students who are immigrants or from immigrant families. Additionally, a bullying atmosphere remains in many communities. Because we want our members and their students and families to feel as welcome as possible, we invite you to dive into these Colorín Colorado resources that can help you and your colleagues get to know your ELL and immigrant students better and start working together to meet their needs. Some of our most popular back-to-school resources are included below.

We also have lots of resources for Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-October 15) on Colorín Colorado. Here are some great ideas for the classroom and lots of booklists! Take a look at these classroom resources and activities. Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook and for the latest information and resources on ELLs and immigrant students, check out our weekly ELL headlines as well.

For more information on countering hate in our schools and institutions, please join us Monday, Sept. 24, for an important Share My Lesson webinar discussion, After Charlottesville: How Uncomfortable Conversations Can Overcome Hate. Facing History and Ourselves and the American Federation of Teachers are co-hosting a conversation with author Eli Saslow on how college students helped change the heart and mind of the heir apparent to America's white nationalist movement. Note: This session is available for education credit, per your school's or district's approval. Follow Facing History and Ourselves on SML. To register please go to the link below:

Sept. 24 Webinar: Overcoming Hate

Share on Twitter and on Facebook.

We still need your help in an amicus brief the AFT is planning to file on behalf of AFT members and the families we serve in support of a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's shameful and inhumane family separation and family detention policies. The lawsuit, State of Washington, et al. v. USA, was filed on June 26 by 17 State Attorneys General, and the Attorney General of DC.

Our amicus brief will tell the stories of our members in the K-12, PSRP, healthcare, and public employee divisions who through their work understand the importance of keeping families together and keeping parents and children in non-detained settings.  We are looking for members who can talk about the negative long-term physical and mental health consequences of such separation and detention, based on their own training and experience. We realize this crisis is recent and many of these kids have not been placed in a regular school setting yet, but we want to relate your experiences with other children separated from parents or in custodial settings.

If not you, do you know of any members in your local who have can speak to the experience of family separation? The members' stories would not be in the form of a lengthy declaration, but instead be a relatively short description.

Finally, please consider writing a blog post about back-to-school amidst the pervasive unsafe atmosphere for our students who are immigrants and how you, your colleagues, your members are addressing the challenges and embracing the opportunities that come to a community when immigrants arrive.

If you can get back to Giselle Lundy-Ponce as soon as possible with your blog post and/or names and contact information of members that can contribute to our amicus brief work, that would be wonderful. Giselle is cc'd on this email and her email is

Thank you again for all your support!


Mary Cathryn Ricker, NBCT
Executive Vice President, AFT

take a look at teaching
Sep 20

NYSUT launches new 'Take a Look at Teaching' campaign

ALBANY, NY Sept. 20, 2018 — New York State United Teachers today launched “Take a Look at Teaching,” a new initiative to strengthen teacher recruitment efforts and elevate the profession as a whole. The program targets college, middle and high school students; adult career changers; and individuals already working in the education field who want to become certified teachers.

Starting this fall, the campaign will feature campus conversations, a series of regional summits for students and educators hosted by P-12 and higher education union locals statewide.  The campaign also features a new site that will help people navigate the process of becoming a teacher, and provide inspiration for entering the profession. Information ranges from facts about teacher education programs, teacher certification and student loan forgiveness, to educator testimonials about what teaching means to them.

 “NYSUT sounded the alarm last year about the looming teacher shortage, and many districts have already begun experiencing recruitment problems in certain subject and geographic areas,” said NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango. “We have to act now.”

The campaign is an effort to counteract a “perfect storm” of factors contributing to the teacher shortage, including plummeting enrollment in teacher education programs, and an aging population of veteran educators, explained DiBrango. In addition, NYSUT is working hard to change the state’s disastrous APPR teacher evaluation system, which has further discouraged people from entering or staying in the profession, she continued.

The campaign places a special focus on increasing racial and ethnic diversity within the teaching field. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s annual report, The Condition of Education 2018, although nationally 51 percent of students in grades K-12 are children of color, 80 percent of all public school teachers are white. And student diversity is only expected to grow since the percentage of white students enrolled in public schools is projected to decline through at least 2025.

“Having diverse teachers benefits all students,” said DiBrango.

For more information, visit

take a look a teaching

New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.

1 Year After Maria
Sep 19

5 simple steps to take action for Puerto Rico

Via our national affiliate AFT:

On September 20th, Hurricane Maria survivors, along with advocates and allies, will be staging mass vigils across the country to mourn the victims of Hurricane Maria and demand justice for Puerto Rico.

AFT is joining the Hispanic Federation, the Power 4 Puerto Rico Coalition, CPD, faith based networks and others in protesting the administration’s callous indifference to Puerto Rican suffering.

We also are calling for accountability from members of Congress while urging everyone to support candidates this November who support Puerto Rico. There’s much more that remains to be done in Puerto Rico with regards to education, health care, environment, emergency preparedness, infrastructure and economic redevelopment.

5 Simple Steps to Take Action for Puerto Rico

Step #1. Join an event near you.

Visit & 1yearaftermaria.comfor details

Sept #2. Sign the 'Take Action for Puerto Rico' petition


Step #3. Watch share AFT president Randi Weingarten's video on the need to strengthen public education in Puerto Rico.

Strengthening the public education system in Puerto Rico is essential to rebuilding and revitalizing Puerto Rico. There is no quick fix, there are evidence-based practices that enrich teaching and learning. The children, families and educators in Puerto Rico deserve schools that support growth and success. Link to video.

Step: #4. Show some love to our brothers & sisters in #PuertoRico by amplifying your support on social media.


Sample Facebook posts

  • #1YearAfterMaria we are demanding accountability, transparency and a just recovery for Puerto Rico! Join us across the country on 9/20 for vigils honoring the lives lost in the disaster and denouncing President Trump’s neglect #BoricuasRemember
  • On 9/20, we’ll be joined by #Power4PuertoRico’s coalition supporters at the White House to remember every life lost during and after Hurricane Maria. Join us and show solidarity with Puerto Rico! #1YearAfterMaria
  • Spread the word about nationwide events honoring the mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, cousins, grandparents, and friends we lost #1YearAfterMaria! Visit our #BoricuasRemember website to learn more:

Sample Twitter posts

  • #1YearAfterMaria @Pwr4PuertoRico is demanding accountability, transparency and a just recovery for Puerto Rico! Join us on 9/20 at vigils nationwide honoring the lives lost in the disaster and protesting @realdonaldtrump’s neglect #BoricuasRemember
  • On 9/20, we’ll be joined by @Pwr4PuertoRico coalition supporters at the @whitehouse to remember every life lost during & after Hurricane Maria. RT and show solidarity w/ Puerto Rico! #1YearAfterMaria #BoricuasRemember
  • ¡#1AñoDespuésdeMaría @Pwr4PuertoRico exige responsabilidad, transparencia y una justa recuperación para Puerto Rico! Únase con nosotros el 9/20 para recordar las vidas perdidas en el desastre y denunciar los errores del presidente Trump  #BoricuasRemember
  • ¡RT y comparte nuestros eventos nacionales que honran a las madres, padres, hijas, hijos, primos, abuelos y amigos que perdimos #1AñoDespuésdeMaría! Visita nuestro sitio web #BoricuasRemember para obtener más información:

Update your profile pictures with the 'Power 4 Puerto Rico' Twibbon filter. 

TWEET your support by adding a #1YearAfterMaria twibbon filter to your profile picture by clicking HERE.

Step #5. Share the resources and toolkits produced by several key organizations that the AFT is working with:

Thank you for taking action for Puerto Rico!

César Moreno Pérez, Associate Director, AFT Human Rights & Community Relations Department

North Country educators listen to the Whitney Point team talk about building a community school model from the ground up. Student Mackenzie St. John, who now serves as a program student mentor, is planning to become a social worker. Photo by Sylvia Saunders.
Sep 19

North Country educators see 'promise' of community schools project

Whitney Point junior Mackenzie St. John had a little confession for a busload of North Country educators who visited her Southern Tier community school program.

Mackenzie St. John"I really hate Wednesdays," she said. The reason? That's the only weekday her community school's drop-in center is not open.

St. John is not the only one who feels that way. A couple of years ago, when the fledgling drop-in center was only open two days a week, students successfully petitioned the district to double the Promise Zone program to four days. They simply needed more.

The drop-in center is a lifeline for students looking for some friendly faces, a little extra support during study hall, or maybe just to avoid the social difficulties of the high school cafeteria.

"There's no judgment in the drop-in center," St. John said. "People stop in before school, after school, in between classes — it's just a very welcoming, supportive place." The center is staffed by Binghamton University graduate students working toward master's degrees in social work and David Puglisi, the district's full-time community school coordinator and a member of United University Professions, better known as Mr. P.

The drop-in center, which offers everything from academic support to donated prom dresses, is just one piece of the Broome County/Binghamton University Community Schools program, a partnership of county/community agencies, SUNY Binghamton, Broome-Tioga BOCES and area school districts.

Using a state grant five years ago, Broome County partners launched its community schools project with nine buildings in five districts. Since then, the state's only multi-county community school initiative has expanded to 27 buildings in eight districts including Binghamton, Johnson City, Union-Endicott, Whitney Point, Chenango Valley, Windsor, Harpursville, Broome-Tioga BOCES and Elmira.

Overall goals include increasing school attendance, fostering pro-social behavior, strengthening academic achievement and family engagement and expanding access to services to address barriers to success. BU researchers are tracking results of the program and have already seen a drop in disciplinary referrals and improvements in attendance and family engagement.

North Country educators, who made the trek to learn more about the community school concept, quickly found out there was no one-size-fits-all model they could take home in a binder. Services are tailored for each site, depending on needs and available resources. For example, after educators in one rural district noticed grandparents were raising many of the students, the coordinator put together a well-received intergenerational science camp with the help of a BU gerontologist.

Other activities vary from site to site, including a Parent Café to promote positive family/school connections; five-week Summer Zone sessions to avoid learning loss and offer academic/extracurricular enrichment; plus opportunities for health and mental health services, civic engagement, youth leadership and field trips to area colleges.

"It's not us coming in to save the world," said Luann Kida, Promise Zone Community Schools Director and a UUP/Binghamton member. "It's about using your own community resources — then building from there. It's looking at what you do have — not what you don't have."

For Broome County, it was about seizing the power of students at SUNY Binghamton — not just the MSW students, but also those from many other majors — like the nursing students who offer diabetes education. Promise Zone has also tapped into local foundations and business leaders like Kim Myers, the daughter of the founder of Dick's Sporting Goods, who has established a Bucks incentive program for kids who reach set goals, such as school attendance.

Kathy Sheehan of Broome-Tioga BOCES urged the North Country visitors not to underestimate the power of BOCES, which can help channel cost-sharing and higher state reimbursement. Community schools can also leverage a wide array of state and federal grants for programs like anti-bullying. In-school mental health clinic services can be billed through Medicaid.

Saranac Lake TA's Don Carlisto, a NYSUT Board member who helped put the bus trip together with support from American Federation of Teachers and NYSUT, said the field trip proved to be affirming and inspiring. He said the group spent a large part of the long bus ride back brainstorming lists of community partners and programs they'd like to try.

"I was struck by how much potential exists to tailor the community approach to your own district's needs," Carlisto said. "We returned home even more committed to bringing the model to the North Country."

teacher of the year 2019
Sep 18

Bronx teacher of immigrant students named New York’s 2019 Teacher of the Year

ALBANY, N.Y. Sept. 18, 2018 — A visually impaired Bronx high school teacher who immigrated to this country from West Africa and entered teaching because he wanted to transform the lives of young people — all while commuting four hours round-trip each day from the Hudson Valley to do so — today was named the state’s 2019 Teacher of the Year.

Alhassan Susso, a member of United Federation of Teachers, teaches government, economics and personal development at the International Community High School in the South Bronx, where nearly every student is poor and a new arrival to this country. He rises well before dawn each school day, usually at 4 a.m., for the two-hour trip from his home in Poughkeepsie to the South Bronx, where he has taught since 2012.

In addition to his regular teaching duties, Susso leads a course during what he calls “zero period” — which begins one hour before the official school day but is nonetheless jammed with eager students. His self-designed special course helps his South Bronx students — mainly from Latin American countries, Yemen, Bangladesh and nations in West Africa — plan for their future. Susso helps his students develop the leadership, communication and financial management skills necessary to achieve their dreams. Last year, every student who completed Susso’s course graduated high school and 97 percent are enrolled in college.

“Alhassan Susso’s incredible life story and his unwavering commitment to his students at the International Community High School are an inspiration, and a reminder of the dedication, excellence and professionalism found in classrooms all across the state,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. “Our profession is lifted by innovative educators like Mr. Susso, who, like his colleagues, are changing lives through their passion for teaching and learning.”

NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango said, “Alhassan Susso is a champion for children. His impact on his students — and his community — is immeasurable. Even in a state like New York, which is nationally renowned for the very high caliber of its teaching force, Alhassan’s life story, his passion for teaching, and his dedication to students and public education stand out. He is a shining example of what it means to be an educator.”

Susso immigrated to the United States from Gambia as a junior at Poughkeepsie High School, where school became his refuge. At one time, he planned to be a lawyer, but switched to teaching because he wanted to help young people. He graduated from the University of Vermont and earned his masters from Bard College. He is the author of The Light of Darkness: The Story of the Griots’ Son, which traces his journey to America as a nearly blind teenager and the challenges of becoming an American while maintaining his deep African roots. Susso also was a 2017 Top 50 finalist for the Global Teacher Prize awarded by the Rockefeller Foundation.

In his statement for the Teacher of Year application, Sussso wrote: “Teaching should bring joy and happiness each day because teaching is all about cultivating and nurturing relationships. It does not matter how outstanding our lessons are, how skilled we are in delivering those lessons, or how knowledgeable we are in our subject matter … if our students do not know how much we care about them.”

teacher of the year 2019

New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.

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