Mark Warren believes that first friendships are the best friendships.
So when he learned that Batavia High School was offering an Introduction to Education course through its Accelerated College Enrollment program, he asked if he could speak with the students about being in the union.
“It’s a course that isn’t always offered; this is the first time we’ve had enough student interest to run it,” said Warren, president of the Batavia Teachers Association near Rochester. He explained that full-year ACE courses are offered in conjunction with nearby Genesee Community College, and provide students with three college credits.
“A lot of incoming educators don’t come from union households,” he said explaining that many have little or no knowledge about them, beyond negative stereotypes. “I always think ‘first friend, best friend’ when it comes to the union — I want to make sure students know what unions do for teachers.”
After reaching out to NYSUT headquarters for background materials, Warren put together a presentation focused on the nuts and bolts of unionism, contract negotiation, pensions and health insurance and the importance of having a voice and the right to due process in the workplace.
He was inspired to speak after learning about the statewide union’s Take a Look at Teaching initiative.
“When I was in college I had a number of professors who discussed the role of the union in teaching,” said Warren who teaches Advanced Placement calculus at the high school. “They put the bug in my ear and I remembered.”
He hopes to instill the same interest in his students. He was pleased that the students asked a lot of questions during his visit, ranging from the teacher strikes across the country to teacher pensions. “They wanted to know if New York teachers are planning to go on strike and if it’s true that teachers lose two days pay if they go on strike,” said Warren. “Getting someone from the union to talk with students would work well in intro classes like this, or even clubs.”
NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango encourages other local presidents and union activists to consider making similar presentations at their schools. “Highlighting the many benefits of teaching is a great way to encourage qualified candidates to consider the profession,” she said. “If you have the opportunity to speak about the union with your students, do it.”
For more information about NYSUT’s Take a Look at Teaching program, visit www.nysut.org/TakeALookAtTeaching.