HERstories: Inspirational NYSUT Women

“Behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have her back.”

This HERstory page was created to highlight the strong female leaders in our union, and to empower more women to take on leadership roles in all sorts of ways within their local unions, their communities, and within NYSUT.

Please use the stories on this page as a model and template for featuring the powerful #NYSUTwomen in your local union in your newsletters and publications. We hope you will share some of these stories with us so we may use them on our social media platforms and perhaps even in an upcoming issue of NYSUT United.

Is someone making "HERstory" in your local?

Visit nysut.org/herstory to submit your member's HERstory to NYSUT!


Sophia Howard Johnson
Buffalo Teachers Federation

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SOPHIA HOWARD JOHNSON is committed to fighting for the rights of union members. After the Buffalo Teachers Federation went more than 12 years without a contract, she was instrumental in helping the local reach an agreement in 2016 as part of the negotiation team. She is also a BTF Executive Committee member, co-chair of the BTF Ethnic Minority Involvement Committee, a sick leave bank trustee and active in Buffalo Believe, an initiative to forge stronger ties between the community and Buffalo schools.

Sophia was one of several Buffalo teachers named in a legal appeal to remove Carl Paladino from the Buffalo Board of Education after he made racially charged statements. Paladino was removed from the board last year.


Erin Covell
Massena Federation of Teachers

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ERIN COVELL heads both the Massena Federation of Teachers and the People Project, a 2016 initiative she launched with other community activists through a NYSUT Solidarity Grant.The People Project partners the union with members of the St. Lawrence County community to bring economic revitalization to the region. Now in its second year, the project demonstrates how unions enrich and give back to their local communities.

The People Project currently has over 100 members from local unions and the St. Lawrence community. It has also secured funding from the American Federation of Teachers.


Florence McCue
NYSUT At-Large ED 51-53 Director

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FLORENCE McCUE is a familiar face to both retirees and in-service members. A tireless, lifelong advocate for the union, she’s turned the word “retiree” on its ear, rallying and fighting for union issues in her role as the at-large representative for NYSUT retirees.

Prior to retiring, she was a member of the Yonkers Federation of Teachers’ Executive Board, served as YFT’s grievance chair and was a valued mentor. A member of the NYSUT Board of Directors since 2014, Florence is the retiree representative for the YFT Executive Board, secretary/treasurer for the Westchester-Putnam AFL-CIO Central Labor Body and an attorney with a focus in education and real estate law.


Cheryl Rockhill
Brushton-Moira Support Staff Association

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CHERYL ROCKHILL is president of the Brushton-Moira Support Staff Association in the North Country and a member of NYSUT's School-Related Professionals Advisory Committee. She was active in the Fight for $15 movement which advocated for a livable wage for School Related Professionals and other workers.

She shared her family's struggle to make ends meet while testifying before the New York State Wage Board in 2015. Her efforts, and those of countless other activists, led state lawmakers to agree to gradually increase the state’s minimum wage to $15.

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