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Oct 23

TOC support program helps aspiring teachers every step of the way

For Manuela Hurtado, a student in SUNY Old Westbury’s Teacher Opportunity Corps (TOC), seeing is believing — and motivational.

An aspiring bilingual teacher, Hurtado said the TOC program’s intensive, hands-on approach gave her an early chance to see what a bilingual classroom looks like.

“TOC gives us a head start on student teaching by allowing us to see what actually goes on inside the classroom, not just read about it in a textbook,” Hurtado said. After entering TOC in her sophomore year, Hurtado was amazed when she got to see a bilingual kindergarten in action.

“Sitting in on that classroom expanded my vision of the bilingual educator I would like to be one day,” said Hurtado, who came to this country at the age of 3 but never had the chance to attend a bilingual program.

“I saw myself in many of these students and I know they will be so much more prepared than I was."

For TOC intern Joshua Barrett, his special ed fieldwork with one of Freeport’s mentor teachers has been such a positive experience that he’s chosen to continue his placements in her grade 3–4 inclusion class. “I really like her teaching style and I’ve learned so much,” Barrett said.

The early field placements, which continue each semester right up until the traditional student teaching placement senior year, are among the many supportive activities under a statewide grant program to 16 public and private colleges.

“The purpose of TOC is to increase the number of historically underrepresented and economically disadvantaged individuals in teaching careers,” said Nancy Brown, dean of Old Westbury’s School of Education.

TOC interns, who must meet admission requirements including a 3.0 grade point average, must be full-time students taking at least 12 credits per semester.

“Our goal is to recruit and support high quality teacher candidates and create a supportive learning community,” said Michelle Wohlman- Izakson, an adjunct professor and assistant director of SUNY Old Westbury’s TOC. “We emphasize important lifelong skills and culturally responsive teaching. We want to give them all the tools they need to hit the ground running and be successful."

To do this, TOC offers a wide range of support, including tutoring, mentoring, ongoing professional enrichment and leadership opportunities.

TOC grants

The state’s Teacher Opportunity Corps II program provides $3 million annually to 16 public and private colleges, including: SUNY Cortland, Oswego and Old Westbury; and CUNY Brooklyn, Hunter, Medgar Evers, Lehman and Queens colleges.

Aside from the traditional teacher education coursework, interns attend “professional polish” seminars every semester, which include guest speakers and practical workshops such as how to set up a classroom — and tips on how to pay for it.

“The workshops are really valuable,” Barrett said. “Last year, we had a resume workshop with a number of principals who came in and told us what they look for, what stands out."

Student interns are encouraged to submit ideas for future seminars, and at times, lead them themselves. They attend various professional learning events sponsored by area schools, colleges and organizations such as The Regional Center for Autism.

“The financial support TOC offers our interns toward tuition, books, certification exam fees, etc., is important; however, our TOC has grown to offer more,” said Project Co-Director Jeanne Shimizu, a member of UUPOld Westbury.

Hurtado agreed, saying the TOC support system is crucial to getting over all the hurdles to becoming a teacher. “Being part of TOC allows us to network with students and faculty on a deeper level,” she said. “We are brought into a community of advisers and professionals who help us get through every step of the process."

NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango said expanding promising programs like TOC is essential if the state wants to recruit and retain a more diverse teaching pool.

“All students, whether in urban, suburban or rural schools, benefit from a diverse teacher workforce.”

srp recognition day
Oct 23

Nov. 20 is SRP Recognition Day

New York State SRP Recognition Day, celebrated this year on Nov. 20, is a time to recognize the hard work School-Related Professionals do every day on the front lines and behind the scenes to help our students learn and our schools run efficiently.

SRP Recognition Day acknowledges the contributions of education professionals in helping to educate the whole student. NYSUT’s 90,000 SRP members perform a variety of key roles in schools, working as bus drivers, school nurses, custodians, secretaries, food service workers, teaching assistants and aides and in dozens of other job titles. Officially established in a law passed in 2007, SRP Recognition Day falls on the third Tuesday of each November, often during American Education Week.

Order SRP Recognition Day supplies now

Start planning now to celebrate SRPs in your district.

NYSUT has produced a packet that includes celebration ideas, posters, fliers and stickers to help in your festivities.

Supplies are limited. Be sure to order kits by Nov. 1 to guarantee delivery by Nov. 20. Orders placed after this date may not be filled. Materials are also available via download.

For more information and to order your kit, visit

We want to hear about your celebrations. How will your local celebrate SRPs this year? Share your ideas with NYSUT via Facebook and Twitter. Tag @nysut and use the hashtag #SRPRecognitionDay.

Also, don’t forget to enter the 2018 contest. To be eligible, simply email photos and information about your celebration to Leslie Fottrell, NYSUT SRP coordinator, at lfottrel@nysut by Dec. 11.

Two first-place winners will receive a two-for-one for the 2019 SRP Conference at the Desmond Hotel in Albany (an approximate $250 value) and have their event featured in a NYSUT publication!

Oct 23

Poughkeepsie teachers challenge district’s unfair APPR ratings

In a powerful show of activism, hundreds of Poughkeepsie Public Schools Teachers Association members showed up at school district offices to protest evaluation ratings torpedoed by poor results on a single test.

The line snaked out the door as members waited after school on two late September days to officially file time-stamped appeals.

In all, more than 275 of PPSTA’s 380 members were rated either “developing” or “ineffective,” putting them at risk of being placed on punitive Teacher Improvement Plans, or TIPs. The stakes were even higher for untenured teachers.

It was the high school English Language Arts Regents that slammed the Poughkeepsie teachers. Under an APPR plan pushed by a former superintendent, the district used the passing rate on the 11th grade Regents Exam as a group measure.

Poughkeepsie local president Stephanie Green makes sure the paperwork is in order. Photo provided.

“We told them using a group measure based on a single assessment was a recipe for disaster, years ago,” said PPSTA President Stephanie Green. “We questioned it all the way to the State Education Department, but we were told it was not negotiable."

The high-needs district chose the 11th grade ELA Regents Exam because it included a high number of students and usually about 70 percent passed it, Green said.

But this past year, after the state changed the 11R ELA grading scale and only 48 percent of the students passed the exam, the single test result sunk nearly every teacher’s rating.

Green said a small number of secondary teachers, whose ratings were tied to their own students’ Regents exam scores, were not affected by the group measure.

“It’s hard when your rating is tied to test scores of students who aren’t even in your classroom,” Green said.

“And it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the people who are teaching 11th grade ELA. They literally cried the first year."

When the unfair ratings were issued in the first weeks of school, Green said it was crucial to get information out and build solidarity.

“We made sure everyone knew their right to appeal and how to do it — even the exact language to do so,” Green said. “We also made it clear that we needed everyone in the pool — that, in the grand scheme, this affected everyone.”

Green was stunned by the turnout.

Aside from the fact that virtually every aggrieved teacher showed up to file their challenge, Green was heartened to see so many other PPSTA members turn out to show their strong support for their colleagues.

“We had people who were rated ‘highly effective,’ and even people who were out on maternity leave,” Green said. “It really turned into a rallying event.”

With support from NYSUT labor relations specialist Jeff Benton and staff in NYSUT’s Research and Educational Services Department, Green met with district officials, including the new superintendent and legal counsel. “The superintendent agreed with us that APPR should be used to help staff grow, not to punish,” Green said.

The district and union are hammering out a solution to the appeals issue to ensure that no one is harmed by this year’s situation.

NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango praised the Poughkeepsie local’s activism on behalf of its members and noted how important it is for districts to listen to the voice of the teachers’ union when designing evaluation systems.

“The APPR needs to be returned to local control so that teachers are at the table to create evaluation systems that support them and help them grow,” DiBrango said. “Now is the time for legislators to make changes to the law.”

Oct 22

Educators on the Ballot: It’s true what they say, all politics is local

On a damp gray day in early October, Kaitlin Tyndall knocked on the door of a NYSUT member in the village of Madrid, St. Lawrence County. A minute passed, a dog barked inside, and the door opened. Big smiles. “Hey, I know you, you’re Kaitlin,” said the woman at the door. “I read about you.”

“Yes, hi!” Tyndall said, reaching out to shake the woman’s hand. “I’m running for county legislature!”

The small towns in the northern reaches of the state all share the same economic pinch, and they feel the related problems with substance abuse and unemployment. Tyndall, who grew up here, is a teaching assistant in Potsdam and a member of the St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES Federation of Instructional Support Personnel. “I am stepping up and want to make a difference in this county,” she says.

Tyndall is one of three union members in NYSUT’s Pipeline Project running for the St. Lawrence County Legislature this year. The others are Nicole Terminelli, a member of the Massena Federation of Teachers, and Mike Hammond of the Ogdensburg Education Association. With local union help, Terminelli already won a primary to earn her place on the ballot.

The Pipeline Project provides training and resources for members willing to run for local or state office. Having the union behind them makes a huge difference.

“It’s incredible to have that added support and that group of people behind me pushing me forward,” Tyndall said. “Helping to hit these doors today is awesome.”

The county candidates also are advocating for NYSUT-endorsed state legislative candidates, and for Tedra Cobb, who is running for Congress in District 21.

A former county legislator, Cobb advocated for funding during difficult times for North Country schools, said Don Carlisto, co-president of the Saranac Lake TA and a member of NYSUT’s executive committee. “She’s well known to NYSUT members here and the groundswell of support for her candidacy has been unmistakable,” he said.

NYSUT doesn’t endorse in local elections, but its local affiliate unions do, and they provide the most valuable resource for local and state endorsed candidates: feet on the street, phone banking and other volunteer needs.

“Candidates who earn the union’s support can count on more than just financial support,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. “They can count on grassroots, neighborhood, face-to-face campaigning on their behalf. Through our hundreds of thousands of members and their activism, we are a force to be reckoned with.”

Twitter Moments: NYSUT GOTV

Oct 22

Educators on the Ballot: Mannion is the man in Senate District 50

"I’m a teacher, a dad and a lifelong Central New Yorker, not a politician,” says John Mannion. “We can’t depend on career politicians to fix Albany. We have to do it ourselves.”

Last spring, NYSUT endorsed Mannion, an Advanced Placement biology teacher and local union leader, for state Senate. Union leaders said the 50th Senate District around Syracuse deserves “a dedicated, tireless leader who is knowledgeable and passionate about public education.”

NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said Mannion, president of the West Genesee Teachers Association and a member of the Onondaga County Teachers Association, would bring a classroom teacher’s perspective to the Senate.

He runs on the Democrat, Working Families and Women’s Equality Party lines for the seat vacated by retiring Sen. John DeFrancisco. “Too often,” Mannion says, “whether it is the pay-to-play culture or just an entrenched system, I have felt ignored by our elected officials. I’m running for state Senate because I want to be a part of the solution and put public service at the forefront.”

Mannion outlines common sense reforms he wants to see enacted immediately to help provide the public service residents of the region deserve:

  1. Set term limits for all state elected officials, including a maximum of seven terms for state senators.
  2. Get big money out of politics, primarily by closing the LLC loophole that allows individuals to use corporations to circumvent normal contribution limits.
  3. Ban outside income for state legislators.
  4. Establish an independent redistricting commission to end gerrymandering. The constitutional amendment passed in 2014 that allows for a Legislature-appointed commission is a good first step, but we need to go further to eliminate the influence of elected officials.
  5. Comptroller oversight of public-funded projects.

Mannion is a graduate of NYSUT’s Member Organizing Institute, which helped rally opposition to the proposed constitutional convention last year. He also emerged from NYSUT’s Pipeline Project, which identifies and trains candidates to run for public office. The project helped NYSUT members Monica Wallace of Buffalo and Christine Pellegrino from Nassau County earn Assembly seats in 2017. NYSUT members Pat Burke and Keith Batman are also running for Assembly seats this November.

It’s a trend noted by the news media and teachers unions: Motivated by education cuts, over-testing and a spirit of activism, educators are running for legislative seats across the country. A new Education Week analysis shows that “teachers are not only running — they’re winning.”

The Ed Week analysis found 158 classroom teachers running for state legislatures; 101 have now moved on to the general election. Thirty-seven of them had to win primaries.

It only makes sense, Pallotta said. “As the Senate debates standardized testing, state funding to our public schools and colleges and countless other important education issues, we believe that the voice and experience of a classroom teacher in that chamber would be invaluable for all New Yorkers."

nysut gotv
Nicole Terminelli, Massena FT, fourth from left, running for St. Lawrence County Legislature, with support from local unions. Photo provided.

nysut gotv

State Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, center in blue, enjoys the grassroots support of NYSUT members and leaders, including President Pallotta, far right. The senator is a former teacher. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

Twitter Moments: NYSUT GOTV

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Oct 22
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