November/December 2021 Issue
October 25, 2021

Getting to Know... John Collins

Source: NYSUT United
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John Collins is president of the St. Lawrence- Lewis BOCES Federation of Instructional Support Personnel. He was interviewed by Cheryl Rockhill, president of the Brushton- Moira Support Staff Association and chair of the NYSUT SRP Advisory Committee.

Tell me about your job and why you love what you do.

I am a teaching assistant in the Applied Behavioral Analysis program.

We work 1:1 with students who are on the autism spectrum. We receive children from all over St. Lawrence County, from 16 of our 18 component districts. Our goal is to build skills necessary to function as independently as possible whether they enter college, the workforce, or remain at home after school.

There is lots to love about the ABA program: watching the kids acquire, practice and master skills; celebrating students and colleagues as they achieve their goals; camaraderie between the staff; and the gratitude of parents. What I love most about my job is seeing my students gain confidence in their abilities.

How did you get involved in your union?

I started out as a long-term substitute.

Like many new teachers, I made a few newbie mistakes. When my principal relieved me of my duties she mentioned that, because I wasn’t a full-time teacher, I had no mentor teacher or union support. I vowed to never let that happen again.

When BOCES hired me, I started attending union meetings and familiarizing myself with the contract.

I then entered the new member trainings offered by our NYSUT regional office, learning how to connect members with NYSUT’s program and member services. I gained a reputation as a fearless advocate for fellow union members. In 2017, I was elected secretary. Come 2020, I ran uncontested for president.

How do you make a difference?

I provide my students calm and steady support to master independent living skills. It’s rewarding to see them flourish.

I teach members their rights under the collective bargaining agreement and state laws; and help them to advocate for themselves and our students. I am also a safety for them to vent. Times are tough and our members need to know they can have a safe haven for “letting it out.”

What about your community engagement, hobbies?

Two times a year the union hosts a charity drive to support our community.

We also stand in solidarity with other unions.

Since high school I have been a “ringer” for several trivia teams. This past spring, I auditioned for the show “The Chase.” I am hoping to be cast should there be a third season.

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