May 08, 2019

Albany summit asks lawmakers to 'take a look at teaching'

Author: Kara Smith
Source:  NYSUT Communications
take a look at teaching
Caption: Teachers Jessica Elliott, Syracuse Teachers Association, and Walter Robertson, Dunkirk Teachers Association. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

After hosting Take a Look at Teaching summits statewide over the past few months, NYSUT took the issue to the doorstep of lawmakers recently by hosting a session in the state Capitol.

The goal is to garner legislative support — and increased funding — for initiatives that boost teacher recruitment and retention.

“Since we’re facing a serious teacher shortage in New York State, we want to focus on what we can do legislatively to address the problem,” said Jolene DiBrango, NYSUT executive vice president, whose office spearheads the initiative.

“NYSUT is taking the lead on this issue because it’s important,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta, who briefly welcomed attendees. “ We hope this work will make a real difference.”


The statewide union seeks an additional $10 million in funding for three key programs — the Mentor Teacher Intern Program, which supports educators as they transition to full-time teaching; the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program; and the Teacher Opportunity Corp, which provides grants for recruitment, diversification and student support at 16 public and private colleges in New York State.

Legislatively restoring higher education’s ability to use alternative criteria to evaluate teacher candidates, rather than strict grade-point averages, is also a goal. “It doesn’t make sense to not allow our schools to consider the full background of those interested in the profession,” said Jamie Dangler, vice president for academics for United University Professions, NYSUT’s local representing SUNY professionals and academics.

DiBrango led a panel discussion highlighting best practices for teacher recruitment and increasing diversity. Panelists included Dangler; Laura Franz, president of the Albany Public School Teachers Association; teacher Jessica Elliott, Syracuse TA; teacher Walter Robertson, Dunkirk TA; and Kaweeda Adams, Albany City School District superintendent.

Robertson noted the importance of diversity to students of all backgrounds. “I change the preconceived notions that white students have about minorities,” he explained. “They see me do things that maybe before they thought African Americans couldn’t do.”

Elliott spoke about Syracuse’s Urban Teacher Fellowship program, which recruits students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities to the district. “It’s paramount to have someone who looks like you standing in front of you.”

take a look at teaching

Franz and Adams (pictured above, right to left) highlighted the success of Albany’s mentoring program. “We want to get diverse people into the field, but we also want to maintain the teachers we have,” said Franz. “Mentorship allows new teachers to work through problems with colleagues.”

Assembly education chair Michael Benedetto and Senate education chair Shelley Mayer pledged their support for the measures and thanked NYSUT for its leadership. “I look forward to being your partner on this,” said Mayer. “We are committed to these issues and will work with you.”

Benedetto acknowledged the need for teacher recruitment overall and minority teacher recruitment in particular. “I remember the impression my first male teacher made on me when I was a freshman in high school,” he said noting that it gave him someone to identify with and emulate. “I became a teacher because of his influence.”

Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman, D-Queens, also voiced her support for the initiative and thanked the statewide union for its advocacy on behalf of educators.

VIDEO: Part 1