November 15, 2011

Educators gather in Williamsville for training on social-justice education

Source: NYSUT Media Relations

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. Nov. 15, 2011 - More than 70 educators from grades K-12 will take part Wednesday in a social-justice workshop that will focus on training teachers to develop classroom-ready lesson plans on issues ranging from fair trade, to advocacy, to human rights.

The event - sponsored by New York State United Teachers and The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights- also will commemorate the centennial of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, one of the nation's most tragic workplace disasters. The workshop - organized by Andrew Beiter of the Springville Teachers Association and Joi Chimera of the Kenmore Teachers Association- will be held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at NYSUT's Western New York Regional Office at 270 Essjay Road in Williamsville.

"We have a fundamental responsibility to teach our students that a socially just world is one that affords all individuals and groups fair treatment and equal access to society's opportunities," said NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer Lee Cutler, who oversees the statewide union's social-justice agenda.

Educators attending the workshop will learn about NYSUT's Speak Truth to Power curriculum, developed in conjunction with the RFK Center. The curriculum provides lesson plans for teachers on how to introduce human rights issues by using the stories of real-life activists such as the Dalai Lama, civil rights pioneer and congressman John Lewis and Czechoslovakian writer, politician and dissident Vaclav Havel.

Other highlights of the workshop include a conversation with "The Dark Side of Chocolate" filmmaker Robin Romano, whose movie takes an in-depth look at the use of child labor in the cocoa industry.

A presentation will also be held on the 1911 Triangle Fire, which claimed the lives of 146 New York City garment workers, most of whom were young, immigrant women. Teachers will learn how to involve students in a mock trial of the factory owners who, in the wake of the disaster, were indicted on manslaughter charges. Though the owners were eventually acquitted, a judgment was returned against them in civil court.

"Injustice and oppression in other communities and nations impact all of us," said Cutler. "As educators, it is our firm belief that it is critical to speak up and speak out on behalf of the voiceless in our society."

The Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State, the Kenmore Staff Development Center and the Summer Institute for Human Rights and Genocide Studies, also are sponsoring the workshop.

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NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents more than 600,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.



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