April 07, 2016

Meet the award winners: celebrating professional excellence at RA 2016

Source: NYSUT Communications
2016 award winners

If you want to know how a union works, how a workplace becomes safer or what type of professionals go above and beyond the call of duty, then look no further. NYSUT honors both hard work and achievements of members from different constituencies and leaders during the 2016 Representative Assembly, April 8-9 in Rochester. Learn more online at www.nysut.org/ra.

On this page:


New York State Teacher of the Year

Dana McDonough
Newburgh Teachers Association


Dana McDonough, a second-grade teacher in Newburgh, exemplifies the knowledge, skills, dedication and professionalism that all of the state's teachers bring to their classrooms every day.

She has been described as a "teacher's teacher": a child-centered professional who values teaching and learning above all, and an educator who readily shares her knowledge and experience with her colleagues. She has deep family roots in Newburgh and is dedicated to giving back to her community through charitable work.

McDonough, who teaches at the Fostertown ETC Magnet School, is emblematic of New York's exemplary teaching corps in the way that she nurtures all of her students and creates a
community of learners. She sets very high standards for herself and her students, and uses every resource at her disposal to ensure that every child who walks through her door is not only successful, but feels valued, welcome and accepted.

As she wrote in her Teacher of the Year essay, "no single measure exists that produces a clear picture of students' abilities." Rather, teachers must use many tools, including understanding each of their students' abilities and learning styles, to determine the best path for each individual child, she said.

A graduate of Mount Saint Mary's College in Newburgh, McDonough has been teaching in that small city since 1991. She has taken on numerous professional development and leadership roles in her school, district and union, including serving as a building representative for the Newburgh Teachers Association.

This year's Teacher of the Year finalists also included Deborah Minchin of the New Rochelle Federation of United School Employees; Michael H. Comet of the South Lewis Teachers Association; Jason R. Steinagle of the Hamburg Teachers Association and Sandra Taylor of the Skaneateles Teachers Association.

Retiree Members of the Year

Vincent T. Gaglione
United Federation of Teachers


Vincent Gaglione retired 10 years ago after a career as an elementary school teacher in Manhattan. He was active in the UFT and NYSUT, serving numerous roles including as a member of the UFT executive board and NYSUT's Board of Directors.

Upon retirement, he continued his activism, remaining on the UFT executive board and joining the executive board of the Retiree Chapter. He later was elected treasurer of the chapter, as well. Gaglione believes in the importance of "paying it forward" to today's in-service members. His work in retirement is a commitment to maintain and strengthen the solidarity and ideals that the labor movement has won for American workers.

Barbara A. Keilty-Michaleski
RC 18


Barbara Keilty-Michaleski, a retired elementary school teacher and union leader, has continued to be a vocal union activist by serving on many levels — Retiree Council 18 president, Retiree Advisory Committee member, NYSUT delegate, AFT delegate and liaison for her West Hempstead EA local union. She is known as a dynamic role model for union activism, a motivator and a problem solver. As president of RC 18, she set in motion the revival of the group by advocating for increased participation and input by members. She revised the RC 18 constitution, enhanced the newsletter, improved communications between members and NYSUT, increased attendance and participation at
council meetings, and much more. Thanks to her, RC 18 has become a much more active and informed group with increasing membership.

Higher Education Members of the Year

Roberta Elins
United College Employees of Fashion Institute of Technology


Roberta Elins' commitment to unionism, diversity and dedicated leadership has resulted in increased active membership in UCE-FIT over the past five years, notably evidenced by the number of VOTE- COPE awards won by the union. Under her leadership, UCE-FIT won the Lou Cammarosano Award in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Showing a continued commitment to the goals of NYSUT, NEA and AFT, she chairs the NYSUT Higher Education Policy Council and has been on the AFT Program and Policy Council for the past four years.
Elins has maintained a popular weekly online newsletter for the past four years. She also has raised more than $10,000 in each of the past seven years as leader of the UCE-FIT Making Strides efforts.

Jasmin A. Smith
United Clerical and Technical Staff, Professional Staff Congress


Jasmin Smith was a newer employee at NYU's Bobst Library in 2012 when she was notified by payroll that they had failed to deduct the correct amount of federal taxes from her paychecks over a period of months. The university demanded payment. Going to her local union, UCATS, Smith found dozens of others in the same position who owed a total of $60,000. The union filed a grievance and won, with the employer withdrawing the demand for payment and paying the taxes itself to correct its own error. This motivated Smith to become a shop steward.

About the same time, NYU implemented an ill-conceived job-sharing plan in the library, and Smith became the driving force behind member engagement on the issue.
She recently left NYU to accept a full-time faculty position with CUNY and is now a member of the PSC.

Health Care Professionals Members of the Year

Cathleen M. Cavanagh
Patchogue-Medford Professional Nurses Association


Cathy Cavanagh epitomizes service to community. A high school nurse, she volunteers every Saturday at a soup kitchen in which the local union is very involved. She organizes Christmas gift donations, book donations and other fundraisers.

For many years, Cavanagh was president of the nurses bargaining unit, and in 2013, the Patchogue-Medford Congress of Teachers recognized her as a NYSUT "Friend of Education" for everything she does for the students and staff, as well as the community.

The mother of a child with special needs, Cavanagh's life is not always easy, but she never complains and takes on every challenge with a smile and a sense of humor. She always finds time to think and care for others while volunteering her time.

Mindy Karten Bornemann
United Federation of Teachers


Mindy Bornemann is a chapter leader and the chairperson for more than 3,000 UFT speech therapists. She serves on NYSUT's Health Care Professionals Council and committees of the American Speech and Hearing Association. A certified speech therapist, Bornemann was instrumental in establishing a long distance learning program for those who wished to get a master's degree.

She also helped establish a community-based speech clinic. She originated the Super Saturday/Sunday program, which presents guest speakers and allows members to earn Continuing Education Units. She is a delegate to the UFT
delegate assembly and to NYSUT's RA and the AFT convention. Bornemann also provides mandated services for speech.

School-Related Professionals Member of the Year

Sandra Carner-Shafran
Saratoga Adirondack BOCES Employees Association

carner shafran 

Sandie Carner-Shafran is the consummate union member, exemplifying what a union sister or brother is all about. She devotes her time to improving the union, her profession and her school. She is there to assist — from helping a member find his footing, working with a student to improve her self-image or find his place in society, to spreading the word about the needs, benefits and accomplishments of the union.

Carner-Shafran has been a NYSUT RA delegate, a member of the Committee of 100 and the SRP Advisory Board, an ELT instructor and a NYSUT Board At-Large Director for years. She represents SRPs and all members in these forums. If there is a need, we can count on her to be there, speaking up and representing her colleagues and her members.

Sandy Feldman Leadership Grant

Dawn Townsend
Cobleskill-Richmondville Teachers Association


A newer local union president, Dawn Townsend is committed to building understanding, respect and involvement. She plans to use the grant to help create and fund programs and events that will build relationships and ties between her membership and the union, and to continue her training and involvement at the local and state levels.

"Not for Ourselves Alone:" The Sandy Feldman Outstanding Leadership Award

Lorna Baptiste
United Federation of Teachers


Lorna Baptiste came to the UFT 32 years ago and began a career that has grown over the years to become assistant director of the UFT Welfare Fund until her recent retirement. Serving as a member services representative at the fund, she distinguished herself early on as an incredible advocate for the union's members and, their dependents.

The UFT Welfare Fund provides supplemental benefits to more than 300,000 people, and Baptiste has personally helped thousands of UFT members and their families. She is unstoppable when advocating for these members.
All the staff, who often refer to her as the "resident mother, psychiatrist, and preacher", admire Baptiste's work ethic. Her goal is to see everyone in the world "do the right thing."

Dr. Cecelia McCall
Professional Staff Congress


Cecelia McCall, Ph.D., has been involved in the PSC for 45 years and in progressive politics even longer. Since her retirement in 2007, she has been even more active than she was as an "active member." Throughout her long history of progressive union activism, McCall has exemplified the motto "Not for Ourselves Alone." Every part of her work, from her scholarship to her teaching, from her civil rights activism to her work as an officer of the PSC, and now her leadership in the Social Safety Net campaign, has been premised on the idea that we do not and cannot exist "for ourselves alone." She has been a leader in several different organizations, inside and outside the academic
workplace, all with a focus on expanding collective rights and opportunities.

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