After 30 years as an SRP, teacher, and elected union leader, NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango announced Saturday that she will be embarking on a new chapter of her life. During a moving speech, DiBrango bid farewell to the team of educators who nurtured her and inspired her for so many years.
“The lessons I have learned from all of you, our NYSUT educators, I will carry with me for the rest of my life. These are the same lessons that you continue to teach one another as you support our members, your fellow leaders, and NYSUT leadership,” DiBrango told the packed hall at the Albany Capital Center. DiBrango, a longtime middle school teacher and union leader from the Rochester area, was elected to statewide office in 2017, after serving three terms as president of the Pittsford District Teachers Association.
In her speech, she also paid homage to the educators who imparted valuable lessons to her over the years, from her grandfather, who was an SRP, to her professors at Mohawk Valley Community College. She also talked glowingly of her high school business teacher, the late Jan Barile, who nominated her for several student awards. “Never in my short life as a student had I been recognized by any teacher so publicly or so genuinely,” said DiBrango. She said Barile taught her to stay true to herself and let her work speak for itself.
During her tenure with NYSUT, DiBrango spearheaded NYSUT’s “Take a Look at Teaching” initiative, a union-led effort to elevate teaching, increase the number of individuals entering the profession, and improve diversity in the education workforce. She also reenergized NYSUT’s Women’s Committee, demanding it be more engaged in the most pressing issues facing women. As executive vice president, DiBrango oversaw Research and Educational Services and the Education Learning & Trust, NYSUT’s professional development arm.
During her time with NYSUT, DiBrango was instrumental in getting rid of edTPA and successfully fought to put APPR on hold during the pandemic. She has also been an outspoken opponent of standardized testing and charter schools. Under her leadership, ELT expanded their offerings and advanced more courses to promote equitable and responsive teaching. In the wake of the pandemic, ELT also released a slate of courses devoted to “Getting Back on Track” — helping students and teachers alike come back from COVID-19.
During her speech Saturday, she also praised the work of her fellow educators, who have withstood challenge after challenge in service to their students.
“You continuously reminded me that the power of the collective is always stronger than one voice alone. You showed me how to turn a spark of advocacy into a flame. You taught me to never give up and never give in — even when the cards are stacked against us,” said DiBrango. “You strengthen NYSUT, you challenge NYSUT, and you will remain the heart and soul of NYSUT going forward, and you, my NYSUT family, will stay in my heart forever.”