When she began her teaching career, Dana McDonough, New York State 2016 Teacher of the Year, immediately recognized the power of partnerships.
"I realized that, in order to meet the needs of my students, I would need the support of many — my colleagues, my great mentor teachers, SRPs, my school's administrators, health care professionals, my community … and finally, the parents and families who have given me the privilege of educating their children."
That collaborative network, McDonough said, has powered her 23 years in education and allowed her to make a personal connection with each one of her second-grade students at Fostertown Magnet School in Newburgh — the same elementary school she once attended.
"As I travel around the state, I will be sharing my message of 'Teaching Beyond These Four Walls' by enhancing and optimizing the School-Family-Community Partnership," McDonough said. "I firmly believe that this partnership enables teachers to inspire our students to become tomorrow's leaders."
Rather than talk about herself, McDonough turned the spotlight to the audience, "the real heroes of New York's public schools.
"Look around," McDonough said. "You are sitting next to a dedicated professional who is a member of our great union — a union that embraces over 600,000 members with the power and resolve to make a difference in a child's educational journey. [Together], we ensure that a safety net is created to support each student's academic, social and emotional needs."
She urged the audience to be proud for extending the legacy of Al Shanker, the inspirational union founder and labor leader. She explained how, just before she entered a conference room [at NYSUT headquarters] for her final interview in the state Teacher of the Year process, she read a quote by NYSUT President Emeritus Tom Hobart about Shanker:
"Most importantly, Al gave union members the strength and courage to believe in themselves, to believe that, together, they could achieve anything," McDonough read. "That solidarity and confidence and belief in the strength of the union are Al Shanker's most enduring legacy.
"As I look out into this room today, I can attest that Mr. Shanker's legacy is alive and thriving," McDonough said. "For his legacy is on full display not only in Rochester today, but in every classroom throughout our great state!"