June 25, 2014

NYSUT members honored for human rights work

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT Communications
Andrew Beiter
Caption: Drew Beiter introduces the Speak Truth to Power human rights curriculum to educators in Rwanda. Photo via the Educators Institute for Human Rights.

The Board of Regents this week presented two NYSUT members with prestigious awards for their extraordinary work in promoting understanding of the Holocaust and human rights issues.

Andrew Beiter

Andrew Beiter, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Springville Middle School, was named the teacher recipient of the 2013 Louis E. Yavner Award. Beiter, a member of the Springville Faculty Association, is the founder and advisor of the Springville Human Rights Club, the director of the Summer Institute for Human Rights and Genocide Studies and the Educators' Institute for Human Rights. He is also a member of NYSUT's Civil and Human Rights Committee, and has helped write the NYSUT/Speak Truth to Power curriculum, offered through the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

Students and parents nominated Beiter for the award. Kara Kane, a parent, wrote, "By studying documentation of history's most tragic chapters and seeking to understand their connection with current events in the world today, (Beiter) is making students part of a greater solution: preventing and ending human rights abuses in the future and making the world a brighter place for us all."

Here is an article Beiter wrote for NYSUT's "It's What We Do" website.

Beiter (second from left) receives his award at the June 2014 Regents Meeting in Albany from Commissioner John King, Regent Robert Bennett and Chancellor Merryl Tisch. Photo provided.

Dr. Dennis Banks

Dr. Dennis Banks, a professor who chairs the secondary education program at SUNY Oneonta, is the recipient of the Yavner Citizen Award. Banks, a member of United University Professions, is a national leader in promoting human rights education. He has written for state and national publications and spoken widely on human rights issues.

He was also recognized for his extensive work in preparing future teachers so that they can promote human rights and tolerance in their classrooms throughout their teaching career. He organizes an annual Social Justice Day event where college students gather together to listen, interact, reflect and plan how to become more active for social justice.

Allison Weller, a former student who is now a teacher and district mentor coordinator for Copiague Public Schools, wrote, "Had it not been for his inspiration, encouragement and sincere compassion for others, I may not be in the position I am in today to promote tolerance and understanding to future generations. Dr. Banks single-handedly opened my eyes to the injustices of the world, but perhaps more importantly, influenced me to fight to try and change them. Consequently, I have tried to teach my students to do the same."

dr. dennis banks
Banks (right) at the June 2014 meeting of the Board of Regents. Photo provided.

The Yavner awards were established by the Board of Regents and funded by the late Regent Emeritus Louis Yavner of New York City, who served on the board from 1975-1981.

For more information and a list of winners, go to http://www.p12.nysed.gov/ciai/Yavner/.

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