May 03, 2019

Awards and Honors: Representative Assembly 2019

Source: RA 2019
RA 2019 Awards


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 2019 Representative Assembly, May 3-4 in Albany. Learn more at www.nysut.org/ra.


New York State Teacher of the Year: Alhassan Susso

alhassan susso
Alhassan Susso
United Federation of Teachers

Alhassan Susso, a government, economics and personal-development teacher at the International Community High School in the South Bronx, is the 2019 New York State Teacher of the Year.

Susso, a United Federation of Teachers member, emigrated as a teen from Gambia to the United States. Landing in Poughkeepsie without a place to stay, he was forced to live for a spell at a homeless shelter and found refuge in school.

Initially, Susso entertained thoughts of going into law, but he eventually realized he could have a greater impact on the lives of young people as a teacher. He now lives in Poughkeepsie with his wife and two children, rising each day at 4 a.m. for the two-hour trip from his home to ICHS, where he has taught since 2012.

In addition to his regular teaching duties, Susso developed and leads a course during what he calls “zero period” — which begins one hour before the official school day but is nonetheless jammed with more than 60 students. The program helps his students — all of whom are immigrants from Latin American countries, Yemen, Bangladesh and nations in West Africa — plan for their future by developing in them the leadership, communication and financial management skills necessary to achieve their dreams. Last year, every student who completed Susso’s course graduated high school and 97 percent are enrolled in college.

Susso’s experience as an immigrant who came to the United States as a teenager allows his students to connect with him on a very special personal level, since they all have shared the same experience. Diagnosed with a rare degenerative eye condition that’s left him with 20/80 vision and from which he expects to eventually go blind, Susso also serves as an example to his students that their challenges and obstacles are not barriers to success.


School-Related Professionals Members of the Year: Priscilla Castro and Colleen Condolora

priscilla castro
Priscilla Castro
United Federation of Teachers

colleen condolora
Colleen Condolora
Capital Region BOCES

NYSUT honored Colleen Condolora and Priscilla Castro as 2019 NYSUT School-Related Professional Members of the Year during the union’s 47th annual Representative Assembly that was held in Albany over the weekend.

“Colleen and Priscilla are incredible unionists who show every day how important our school-related professionals are to our schools and our students,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “I am proud of the contributions they have made to education and to a strong labor movement here in New York.”

Condolora has been a special education teaching assistant for 29 years with Capital Region BOCES, where she has put into practice a trauma-informed method of working with students. She teaches others about those methods through NYSUT’s Education and Learning Trust classes and provides workshops on trauma-informed care at conferences through NYSUT’s Health and Safety Committee.

“We have to change our own culture to consider where the child is coming from, asking not, ‘What is wrong with you?’ but ‘What is happening to you?’” Condolora said of her work.

Castro, a borough advocate for the United Federation of Teachers, is known for her classroom work as a one-on-one, crisis paraprofessional and as part of an inclusion program modifying lessons for special education students learning with general education students. For the past five years, she has worked for the UFT with SRPs on contract and grievance issues at more than 100 sites in Queens.

“We have what we have because of the union,” Castro said. “We started out with nothing, and this is something we built over time.”


Higher Education Member of the Year: Paul Clement

paul clement
Paul Clement
United College Employees of FIT

New York State United Teachers honored Paul C. Clement as the 2019 NYSUT Higher Education Member of the Year during the union’s 47th annual Representative Assembly that was held in Albany over the weekend.

Clement is a professor of economics and chair of the social sciences department at the Fashion Institute of Technology and, since 2007, treasurer for the United College Employees of FIT.

“Paul’s commitment to unionism, diversity and leadership is an inspiration,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “Leaders like Paul form the backbone of our union, particularly when it comes to political activism.”

“Unionism is about collective action and fighting for social justice at the local, statewide and national levels,” Clement said. “In today’s political climate, I am proud to work closely with my union brothers and sisters to ensure a brighter future for all working people.”

A leader in the fight for social justice, diversity and inclusion, Clement is a member of the American Federation of Teachers Racial Equity Task Force, and NYSUT’s Social Justice Committee. He has presented on racial and social justice issues at AFT and AFT/NEA Higher Education conferences, at NYSUT Community College conferences and has advised the Higher Education Policy Council. He co-chairs FIT’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Clement is also a long-standing member of his local union’s higher education lobby day team.

“Paul exemplifies NYSUT’s deep-rooted history of unionism and social justice,” said J. Philippe Abraham, NYSUT secretary-treasurer, who oversees the union’s social justice efforts. “As we work to recruit more talented individuals into the teaching field, particularly those of color, I salute Paul’s ongoing efforts to increase diversity on his campus and beyond.”


Health Care Professional of the Year: Raquel Webb Geddes

raquel webb geddes
Raquel Webb Geddes
Federation of Nurses/United Federation of Teachers

New York State United Teachers honored Raquel Webb Geddes as the 2019 NYSUT Health Care Professional of the Year during the union’s 47th annual Representative Assembly that was held in Albany over the weekend.

Geddes works as a nurse tending to sick people in their homes across Nassau County for the Visiting Nurse Service of New York. She also works weekly for the United Federation of Teachers, traveling to sites across New York City, Nassau County and elsewhere to run monthly chapter meetings for visiting nurses in seven regions.

“Raquel’s dedication to union values sets an example for all NYSUT members to follow,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “Her work makes a difference every day, and we thank her for her commitment to serving patients across the New York metro area.”

Webb Geddes serves on the executive board of the United Federation of Teachers and on the negotiating committee for the Federation of Nurses/United Federation of Teachers to deliver nursing contracts for home care nurses.

Webb Geddes also is a member of NYSUT’s statewide Health Care Professionals Council, which helps set the union’s legislative priorities, monitors health concerns and hosts an annual professional development conference.

Webb Geddes said she believes the interdisciplinary approach of the council, which includes many different health care professions, “helps us to provide the best care for our patients and the complex condition that is health. A team approach is best.”

A true advocate, she attends NYSUT’s health care lobby day each year to advocate for the rights of nurses and adequate patient care. Home care nurses are often assigned to many patients in a day, she said, and they contend with traffic, transportation, weather and working alone. She joins NYSUT in advocating for no mandatory overtime for home care nurses, and safe nurse-patient ratios.


Retiree Members of the Year: Joyce Magnus and Ken Ulric

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Joyce Magnus
United Federation of Teachers, Retired Teachers Chapter

ken ulric
Ken Ulric
Farmingdale Federation of Teachers, retired


Ken Ulric and Joyce Magnus were honored as New York State United Teachers 2019 Retiree Members of the Year during the union’s 47th annual Representative Assembly in Albany over the weekend.

“Political activism is the foundation of NYSUT’s work, and I’m very grateful to have hard working unionists like Ken and Joyce by my side,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “I applaud them for their leadership and dedication to ensuring a bright future for the labor movement.”

Ken Ulric is the first vice-president/acting president for Retiree Council 17, the Political Action Committee coordinator at-large for Nassau County and president of the Farmingdale Federation of Teachers Retiree Chapter. A former NYSUT Board of Directors member, Ulric represents RC 17 at the Long Island Retiree Delegates Council and represents RC 17 and ED 17 on the NYSUT Retiree Advisory Council.

As PAC coordinator, Ulric’s primary focus lies in retiree phone banking. Under his leadership, retiree activism helped defeat the 2017 Constitutional Convention ballot proposition and to elect Baldwin teacher Christine Pellegrino to the state Assembly. Ulric received a NYSUT Community Service Award in 2016.

“We all need to ask ourselves a simple question: What is there about my salary or pension, my working conditions, and my ability to advocate for children that would be as good as, or better than it now is, without a union? Which of these things would be provided just because it is the right thing to do?” Ulric said. “As retirees who have spent decades fighting the fights and who now see the almost unprecedented war on working people, it’s critical that we continue to advocate for all members of the labor movement. I am proud to work on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of members and children who depend on NYSUT’s advocacy and action.”

Joyce Magnus is treasurer for the United Federation of Teachers Retired Teachers Chapter, the political action representative for Retiree Council 17, the UFT’s Staten Island Retiree Political Action representative and an executive board member for the UFT’s Retired Teacher Chapter.

Magnus’ proudest recent accomplishment, as a political action representative, was helping to get out the vote in the 2018 federal elections through phone banking and canvassing. Her efforts contributed to the successful election of all the UFT- and AFT-endorsed candidates. Magnus received the UFT’s Tom Pappas Award in 2014.

“As a daughter of a union household, I learned at an early age that through unionism and brotherhood, all workers can achieve fair pay and benefits that will provide for them and their families,” Magnus said. “From the beginnings of the UFT through my time as a retiree activist, I have been proud to fight alongside my union brothers and sisters to advocate for strong labor protections and political change that benefits our communities.”

“By committing their time and talents to working on the statewide union’s behalf, Ken and Joyce exemplify what it means to be retiree activists," said NYSUT Second Vice President Paul Pecorale whose office oversees retiree issues. “I congratulate both on receiving these very well-deserved honors.”


Evelyn DeJesus: “Not for Ourselves Alone” The Sandy Feldman Outstanding Leadership Award

evelyn dejesus
Evelyn DeJesus
United Federation of Teachers

New York State United Teachers today awarded its prestigious “Not for Ourselves Alone:” The Sandy Feldman Outstanding Leadership Award to Evelyn DeJesus, vice president for education and executive director of teacher centers for the United Federation of Teachers.

DeJesus was presented with the award at the 47th annual NYSUT Representative Assembly that was held over the weekend in Albany. The award is given annually to two women leaders who have made important contributions to the labor movement over the course of their careers. The other winner this year is Stacey Caruso-Sharpe of the Amsterdam Teachers Association.

“Leaders like Evelyn exemplify NYSUT’s commitment to ensuring women are an integral part of the labor movement,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “I applaud her commitment to union values and improving our communities.”

DeJesus is a member of the NYSUT Board of Directors and Executive Committee, and is a national American Federation of Teachers vice president. A former social worker and paraprofessional who became a skilled teacher and trained administrator, “she is a fierce advocate for justice and a role model for educators of color and women in the labor movement,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said.

Educating women to lead on an educational, political and economic agenda is at the core of DeJesus’s role as a mentor for the next group of women activists leading the union. It is a cornerstone of her work at UFT and as chair of the AFT’s Latino Issues Task Force.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017, she led the union’s Operation Agua humanitarian effort to fund clean drinking water for Puerto Rico and to support the 40,000 teachers in the new AFT local affiliate there.

“Evelyn’s fighting spirit and fierce advocacy have been an inspiration to a generation of women leaders at all levels of the labor movement,” said Jolene DiBrango, NYSUT executive vice president and chair of the NYSUT Women’s Committee.

The “Not for Ourselves Alone” Outstanding Leadership Award was renamed in 2006 in honor of former AFT and UFT President Sandy Feldman, who succumbed to breast cancer in September 2005. It celebrates the contributions of NYSUT's largest constituency group — women.

A lifetime achievement award, it honors women who have provided significant service and leadership to their local and state affiliates, as well as to the labor movement.


Stacey Caruso-Sharpe, “Not for Ourselves Alone:” The Sandy Feldman Outstanding Leadership Award

stacey caruso sharpe
Stacey Caruso-Sharpe
Amsterdam Teachers Association

New York State United Teachers has awarded its prestigious “Not for Ourselves Alone:” The Sandy Feldman Outstanding Leadership Award to Stacey Caruso-Sharpe of the Amsterdam Teachers Association.

Caruso-Sharpe was presented with the award at the 47th annual NYSUT Representative Assembly held over the weekend in Albany. The award is given annually to two women leaders who have made important contributions to the labor movement over the course of their careers. The other winner this year is Evelyn DeJesus, vice president for education and executive director of teacher centers for the UFT.

“Leaders like Stacey exemplify NYSUT’s commitment to ensuring women are an integral part of the labor movement,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “I applaud her commitment to union values and improving our communities.”

“Union leaders know that the work of a union cannot be done alone,” Caruso-Sharpe said. “We are more effective when we join together to fight injustice. I have been fortunate to represent so many outstanding unionists and am grateful for all that we have done together to help achieve our shared goal of making life better for our members and those we serve.”

Caruso-Sharpe retired from teaching in 2016 after 37 years, but she continues to dedicate herself to the dual causes of public education and unionism.

She became a building senator early in her career and was known as someone who was never afraid to speak truth to power. Along with becoming a highly respected member of the mathematics department, Caruso-Sharpe worked years to fight for teachers in Amsterdam and for all NYSUT members. For many years she served as a national AFT vice president. She continues to represent her region on the NYSUT Board of Directors.

“Stacey’s non-stop, can-do approach inspired so many of her colleagues to ask what more they can do,” said Eugene B. Agresta, Jr., co-president of the Amsterdam Teachers Association.

“Stacey’s career of advocacy and leadership has been an inspiration to a generation of women leaders at all levels of the labor movement,” said Jolene DiBrango, NYSUT executive vice president.

The “Not for Ourselves Alone” Outstanding Leadership Award was renamed in 2006 in honor of former AFT and UFT President Sandy Feldman, who succumbed to breast cancer in September 2005. It celebrates the contributions of NYSUT's largest constituency group — women.

A lifetime achievement award, it honors women who have provided significant service and leadership to their local and state affiliates, as well as to the labor movement.


Laura Franz: Sandy Feldman Leadership Grant

laura franz

New York State United Teachers awarded the prestigious $2,000 Sandy Feldman Leadership Grant to Laura Franz, president of the Albany Public School Teachers Association.

Franz was presented with the grant at the 47th annual NYSUT Representative Assembly that was held over the weekend in Albany. The grant is given annually to one NYSUT member to recognize and support new, emerging women leaders among the union’s more than 1,200 local affiliates.

“I am thankful that leaders like Laura are so committed to union values and the future of the labor movement,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “NYSUT is committed to ensuring women are an integral part of organized labor, and Laura is an important leader for that cause.”

Currently in her second year as president of APSTA, Franz has been involved for many years at the local, state and national levels. She has been a local officer and delegate to state and national conventions.

Franz serves on the NYSUT Women’s Committee and the union mentoring subcommittee. She plans to use the funds from the grant to develop and implement an APSTA mentoring program to grow and support future leaders in her local union.

“In the wake of Janus, our focus must be on strengthening our member organizing abilities and ensuring that we provide multiple pathways to union involvement,” Franz said. “It is critical that we provide mentorship and develop a local leader pipeline that will ensure our union remains a strong voice for its members. I am grateful for this recognition and truly hope to honor the memory of Sandy Feldman with this work.”

“Laura has the kind of vision and commitment that will ensure the health and strength of our union for the future,” said Jolene DiBrango, NYSUT executive vice president and chair of the NYSUT Women’s Committee.

To celebrate and commemorate the life of union pioneer Sandy Feldman, the Leadership Grant was established as a result of the generosity and vision of Feldman’s husband, Arthur Barnes.

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