Carlos Torres, Attendance Teacher from UFT
* Attendance teacher
* Urban Assembly School for Green Careers, Manhattan
Carlos N. Torres was a devoted and hard-working attendance teacher who traveled to all the boroughs to reach his students and get them back in school.
“He had a good rapport with the parents and students. He knew how to gauge a situation,” said Maribel Roman, his payroll secretary at the Urban Assembly School for Green Careers in Manhattan. She met with Carlos weekly to discuss no-show students. “He could be tough if he needed to be and knew just what to say to a child to get them to attend,” said Roman.
Carlos, 68, died on April 10.
He began his education career in 2000 as a substitute teacher. When his sister, Winda Vazquez, an elementary school attendance teacher, told him about an attendance opening, Carlos applied and was immediately hired. “That’s how well he did. His personality was awesome — he was such a friendly, caring person,” Vazquez said.
“He always thought about the neediest children: Where am I going to be most useful?” Vazquez remembered. If he couldn’t reach a family during the week, he would pay a visit on the weekend, telling her, “I want to make sure they’re safe.”
The attendance teacher’s job is a combination of social worker and counselor, Vazquez said, referring families to services they may not even know exist. Her brother loved helping people so much, he would say, “Whether I do my work from the Sahara Desert or the office, my goal is to reach families and let them know I am available.”
A UFT member for nearly 20 years, Carlos worked first at JHS 117 and Norman Thomas HS, both in Manhattan and now closed. He also worked at Bread and Roses Integrated Arts HS, Vanguard HS and Life Sciences Secondary School, all in Manhattan, before the Urban Assembly School for Green Careers, where he had worked since 2017.
Dinah Cantres, the chapter leader at Life Sciences Secondary School, said Carlos “was a great man. It was a great loss for us when he left our school, but they needed him at another school,” she said.
“In his own humble, quiet way, he knew how to reach out to students and get them back to school, which is a hard job. I wonder how he was able to reach those students? It was a secret he had,” Cantres said.
Vazquez has a clue. “He looked for incentives — more classes, less classes, to make it better for them in school. He really went out of his way to help students and worked with the school counselor to better accommodate them,” Carlos’ sister said.
Carlos was very family oriented and moved in to care for his elderly mother when her health was failing, Vazquez said. He loved playing guitar, basketball and cards and was a talented artist. He could fix almost anything, including cars, and had a talent for carpentry. He was also an animal lover and was devoted to his dog, Conan.
Carlos earned an undergraduate degree in early childhood education from Touro College and a master’s in history from the College of Mount St. Vincent.
A week before he went into the hospital, Carlos brought hand sanitizer to his sister, plus rubbing alcohol and aloe vera to make homemade sanitizer. “I don’t want to lose you to this,” he told her.
Carlos was so dedicated to his job, he was hesitant to retire. “Even the last time we spoke, I said, ‘I think we should both retire,’” said Vasquez, “and he said, “‘I love what I do. What am I going to do if I retire?’”
In addition to Vazquez, Carlos is survived by five other sisters, Anette, Awilda, Elsa, Edna and Noemi; many nieces and nephews; and many great nieces and great nephews.
Condolences may be sent to Winda Vazquez at firstname.lastname@example.org.