Louise Levine-Rosenthal and John Soldini are proof that the seeds of union activism can put down lifelong roots, especially if they are sown early.
Levine-Rosenthal and Soldini were honored by their union sisters and brothers Saturday as NYSUT's Retiree Members of the Year. Both exemplify selfless dedication to public education and union service.
Levine-Rosenthal thanked NYSUT for giving her the training to continue her union work in retirement.
"I technically retired from teaching 12 years ago, but I never left public education or union activism," she said.
Levine-Rosenthal, a member of Retiree Council 19, has become known as "Thomas DiNapoli's former teacher," because the state comptroller has often thanked her for being a memorable teacher. But Levine-Rosenthal's work in the Mineola schools and as a unionist goes far beyond that one citation. A breast cancer survivor, she has been very active in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and serves on the executive board of the Long Island Association of Retired Americans.
Soldini was a social studies teacher at Tottenville High School on Staten Island, where he was known for introducing innovations to his classroom — including independent studies and mini courses — years before they became standard practice elsewhere. He also helped found Staten Island's first alternative high school for at-risk students.
"It is my belief that we retirees should be honoring NYSUT and the UFT for having the foresight to realize that retirees have the time to fight for so many union issues," Soldini said.
His 40 years of union activism spanned a number of responsibilities and led him to serving as the elected UFT vice president for academic high schools from 1987 to 2002.