March 2012 Issue
February 21, 2012

Locals in action

Source: NYSUT United
Caption: Connetquot TA President Tony Felicio Jr., left, helps put up framing on a Habitat for Humanity home for a Freeport family.

Connetquot Teachers Association

Members of the Connetquot Teachers Association (CTA) and about a dozen students wielded hammers, nails and other tools to help a needy Suffolk County family. CTA member and special education teacher Jason Wilan serves as advisor to the Connetquot High School's Habitat for Humanity club. The group, along with several teachers and CTA President President Tony Felicio, Jr. helped to build a home for the Arevalo-Quezada family of Freeport, Long Island.

Long-time construction volunteer Charlie Trupia, a member of the Habitat Board of Directors, and a veteran Social Studies teacher at Connetquot HS, also worked on the Central Islip Habitat build. Led by Wilan, Connetquot's Habitat for Humanity Club has already raised and donated, $12,000 to Suffolk Habitat this year to buy home construction materials. On Dec. 11, Wilans and Trupia, a former advisor to the Habitat Club, arranged for the Santa 5K Fun Run which raised $10,000 in a single day to benefit the organization.

"It was heart-warming to see the efforts of so many volunteers making such a difference in people's lives," said Felicio, adding that the CTA "is proud of our teachers and what they do for the community."

Watertown Education Association

Members of the Watertown Education Assocation share what they love about their jobs as educators. "I make a difference in a child's life," one writes.

For anyone who might be "puzzled" about the role of educators, look no further than the Watertown Education Association for answers. Using ideas generated at a NYSUT leadership conference, members are proudly displaying the contributions they make to the district, all using a puzzle motif to send the message: Educators are an essential piece.

"While at the North Country Leadership Conference this past fall, members of the WEA were given the opportunity … to brainstorm ideas to help boost morale within our local," said Bridgit Van Epps, an eighth-grade special education teacher and board member of the 325-member WEA, which is led by Dianne Loonan. "In an effort to keep the relationship with our Board of Education positive, despite being without a contract since June 2009, one suggestion was to have each member write down something they are proud of as a teacher," Van Epps said. WEA directors at each of the district's eight schools have been gathering the pride examples.

What makes members proud? Here are a few examples: "I am proud of the lessons I have created to foster student interest and engagement." "I am proud that I could help a student who struggles with reading to find a book he loves." "I am proud of my extensive classroom library that I have purchased mostly with my own money." "I am proud that I stand outside my classroom each period to invite and welcome my students into the room." "I am proud that I have helped my students to be organized by teaching them binder skills."

"Stopping to take a few minutes to think about what truly makes you inspired as a teacher has rewards for both the individual and everyone else that reads it," said Van Epps, who is also vice president of the North Country Coordinating Council of Teachers.