'Not for Ourselves Alone:' The Sandy Feldman Outstanding Leadership Award

'Not for Ourselves Alone:' The Sandy Feldman Outstanding Leadership Award honors those women who have provided throughout their careers significant service and leadership to their local and state affiliates, as well as to the labor movement.


Debra Penny
United Federation of Teachers

debra pennyFor 28 years at Staten Island’s PS 32, Debra Penny was a passionate elementary school teacher, beloved by students, parents and colleagues. Penny, who is the treasurer of the United Federation of Teachers, has put that same kind of dedication into her union work — serving in many positions with the UFT and as a NYSUT Board member.

Penny cares deeply about safeguarding the retirement benefits for today’s and tomorrow’s union members. Using the expertise she gained after years as a UFT pension specialist, Penny was elected in 2016 to serve as a trustee of the New York City Teachers’ Retirement System Board. She is now chair of the TRS Board.

On the national front, Penny serves as the co-chair of the American Federation of Teachers Trustee Council, the National Council on Teacher Retirement, and serves as a member of the National Council of Public Employee Pensions. In recognition of her fiduciary achievements, Penny has been named to the National Association of Securities Professionals Wall Street Hall of Fame.

Penny began her union work as a UFT chapter leader. She rose through the ranks as a UFT educational liaison, a special representative and political action coordinator on Staten Island, rising to become the borough representative in 2012.

Dawn Sherwood
Hempstead Classroom Teachers Association

Dawn SherwoodWith a career spanning four decades, former Hempstead Classroom Teachers Association President Dawn Sherwood is known as a great collaborator, educator and unionist.

As a high school history teacher, Sherwood collaborated with colleagues to bring relevant, real-world opportunities beyond the classroom. She was well known for imparting not only her knowledge of historical events, but also personal narratives and thought-provoking sayings many in HCTA called “Dawnisms.”

Sherwood has worked tirelessly to build community coalitions to support students and families on Long Island. She organized monthly dinner meetings with parents and educators to share priorities and common ground. She spearheaded Immigrant Law sessions to assist undocumented community members; annual health fairs; dance classes; book distributions and clothing drives. When charter schools first applied to open locally, Sherwood quickly mobilized HCTA and the community to demand equality and accountability.

Sherwood’s union service began as a building representative, then she quickly moved up to grievance chair, first vice president and president. She also guided her local through NYSUT’s Local Action Project and groundbreaking work on an educator evaluation system. Since retiring in 2013, Sherwood is the vice president of the Hempstead Educator Retiree Association.

About the Leadership Award

The "Not for Ourselves Alone" Outstanding Leadership Award was renamed in 2006 in honor of former AFT and UFT President Sandy Feldman. Feldman succumbed to breast cancer in September 2005. In the spirit of Sandy Feldman and all those female pioneers within NYSUT who have been recognized with the award since it was first presented in 2002, the award will continue to celebrate the contributions of NYSUT's largest constituency group - women.

A lifetime achievement award, it honors those women who have provided throughout their careers significant service and leadership to their local and state affiliates, as well as to the labor movement. In making a selection, the NYSUT Women's History Committee will consider length, breadth and depth of service. The selected honoree(s) will be recognized at the annual NYSUT Representative Assembly. All nominees will receive a certificate acknowledging the submission of their name for this honor.

About the Leadership Grant

The Sandy Feldman Leadership Grant in the amount of $2,000 has been established as a result of the generosity and vision of Sandy's husband, Arthur Barnes. READ MORE...

About Sandy Feldman

sandy feldman

A teacher and unionist, Sandy Feldman (1939-2005) had a groundbreaking career as a union leader in NYSUT, the AFT and her home local, the UFT in New York City. Her career in education and labor spanned more than four decades. From her beginnings as a second-grade teacher on New York’s Lower East Side in the early 1960s, Sandy rose quickly through the union ranks, organizing staff on her first job. Shortly thereafter, she took a job as a full-time field representative for the UFT, handling grievances, contract negotiations and a range of issues. She eventually took over the reins of the union, becoming its president in 1986. She was elected to head the AFT in 1997. In the process, she became a staunch advocate for civil rights and social justice, participating in the Freedom Rides of the 1960s and the historic 1963 March on Washington, evolving into a proponent of civic education and democracy in the international arena and a leading voice in the national and international labor movement.

Hall of Fame




















Inaugural Honorees

Saluting Additional Pioneers

A woman’s place is in the union ... particularly in New York State United Teachers