HERstories: Inspirational NYSUT Women

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!

Ann Fantauzzi
Saratoga Springs Teachers Association

Ann Fantauzzi

After 34 years in the classroom, ANN FANTAUZZI now spends her time volunteering, training teachers, raising money and working with students in Africa as part of the Saratoga-based non-profit The Giving Circle.

The Saratoga Springs Teachers Association retiree also advocates for and sponsors students through the Aids Orphan Education Trust. #NYSUTwomen

Melissa Salguero
United Federation of Teachers

melissa salguera

Grammy award-winning New York public school music teacher MELISSA SALGUERO, from Bronx P.S. 48, is now a Top 10 finalist for the 2019 Global Teacher Prize, which annually recognizes an educator for making an outstanding contribution to their profession and a positive impact on students. The $1 million award considers educators worldwide, and competing with Salguero for the honor are teachers from countries that include Brazil, Japan, the Netherlands and Kenya.

As a student with dyslexia, Salguero found music was the one place where her learning disability didn’t adversely impact her. As such, she has gone on to share the priceless value of music with countless students, who in the economically challenged Bronx climb over obstacles daily just to get to school to be in band or sing.

It hasn’t always been easy. Salguero — who teaches in the poorest Congressional district in the United States where 59 percent of students live in poverty and 20 percent of the young learners are homeless — has had to clear many obstacles to make sure music programs are available for her students.

But her nomination for the Global Teacher Prize is confirmation that her dedication has paid off.

Sylvia Matousek
North Syracuse Teachers Association

sylvia matousek

Longtime NYSUT retiree activist SYLVIA MATOUSEK remembers earning $4,400 as a new teacher in North Syracuse in 1964 — a sum that forced many educators to apply for food stamps. She also remembers when teachers were required to immediately inform their district superintendent if they became pregnant.

As president, Matousek helped bring change, successfully leading the NSEA in a 10-day, 1973 strike that left she and several colleagues jailed for a week.

Sophia Howard Johnson
Buffalo Teachers Federation


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


In 2016, ERIN COVELL launched the People Project with Massena Federation of Teachers and a broad coalition of community activists with the support of 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. 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.

Today, Covell continues to stand strong for NYSUT members as a Labor Relations Specialist in the union's Rochester Regional Office.

Florence McCue
NYSUT At-Large ED 51-53 Director


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

fight for 15

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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