December 22, 2017

Season's greetings: season's readings and season's eatings

Author: Liza Frenette
Source: NYSUT Communications
Caption: Rebecca Garrard, a speech-language pathologist and president of the 80-member Webutuck Teachers Association, gets into the holiday spirit with student Shaun Pollinger-Wiegard. Photo provided.

This morning, the educators of the Webutuck Teachers Associations were abubble with excitement: They wore pajamas, cooked, and served breakfast seasoned with holiday love to elementary students in this small Dutchess County town.

Following the cheerful meal funded by the WTA, every student received a gift-wrapped book.

“It’s a lovely morning,” said Rebecca Garrard, a speech-language pathologist and president of the 80-member Webutuck TA.

Today is the last day of school before a weeklong holiday and, thanks to this local union, many students will have warm hands and heads, along with fun toys to play with.

“This holiday season, we have donated approximately 75 new toys to local families for our Adopt-A-Family Program,” said Garrard. “We had a hat-and-mitten tree on which teachers donated winter weather gear for our students.”

The Webutuck TA is in its first year of NYSUT’s Local Action Project, a three-year program for local unions to engage their members and to reach out to the community.

Many of NYSUT”s local unions throughout the state took care of students and families in holiday outreach projects, ranging from mitten trees, book giveaways, toy drives and food drives.

Schenectady teachers were also busy yesterday and today handing out books from NYSUT and First Books, Inc. to eighth graders for themselves and their families.

“They could bring home a book for every family member they will see over the school break,” said Cesaera Pirrone, eighth-grade teacher and member of the Schenectady Federation of Teachers, who declares herself to be a “fervent, passionate person about getting books in kids’ hands.”

Happy holidays from the NYSUT officers

Pirrone said that, when she informs students there is going to be a book giveaway, they want to know how much the books will cost. When she tells them there is no cost, the books are free, “They are blown away.”

“There are some great, beautiful titles,” she said. “Nice-quality, hard-cover.” Books range from series to graphic novels to books for students who have not yet built up a strong reading stamina, Pirrone said.

Students were very excited when told they could choose books to give as gifts this holiday season, Pirrone said, explaining that the district has an 80 percent poverty rate.

“Seasons Readings” were in abundance at Middle Island Teachers Association book giveaway on December 10, which was so popular there was a line at the door before the event opened. Thanks to donations from NYSUT and First Book, Inc., teachers were able to provide 15 free books to each family and 15 to each educator to shore up classrooms. It is a festive event with cookies and hot chocolate.

“We’re planning another one this May. Happy Holidays to all!” said Josephine Libassi, second vice president of the MITA and English teacher who coordinates First Book events.

Community volunteers, including police and fire fighters, showed up to help with the large-scale event, which fills a gymnasium.

“We wear MITA shirts, and the bags they take the books home in all have the union’s logo,” said Vincent Giglio, president of the 900-member MITA in Suffolk County.

The TA also has a food drive three times a year for a school pantry, and the goods are collected for Blessing in a Backpack. This serves students who may not have food over the weekend. Educators and school health care professionals coordinate the program, filling the backpacks each weekend.

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