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NYSUT’s Take A Look At Teaching Summits: Western New York ‘Shines A Light On What's Great About The Teaching Profession'

Published Tuesday, January 29, 2019
by Matt Smith/NYSUT Communications
NYSUT’s Take A Look At Teaching Summits: Western New York ‘Shines A Light On What's Great About The Teaching Profession'

(KENMORE, NEW YORK) - Since she was a child, Denise Grandits wanted to be a Teacher, but then her life happened: marriage, kids and before she knew it, she was 20 years deep into her career working for a large health care organization in Western New York.

“I had a boss who saw something in me and said I should pursue my master’s,” said Grandits, recalling what her boss actually had in mind was that she pursue a master’s in business administration. “I thought it over and told my husband, ‘If I’m going to do this, I’m going to get my master’s in something in which I’m interested.’  Ever since I was in second grade I wanted to be a Teacher.  So, I decided to go for it.”

And at age 43, she graduated from Empire State College with a master’s in teaching English Education.  Now a 10-year classroom veteran and English Language Arts Teacher at Franklin Middle School in the Buffalo Suburb of Kenmore, Grandits has never looked back.

“It was ‘scary as heck’ to leave a career in which I knew there was always going to be a paycheck and moving on to a profession that I knew I always wanted to pursue,’ but was uncertain what to expect and whether I could even do it,’” said the Kenmore Teachers Association Member. “But now, when I look at my students, ‘there’s not a question in my mind whether I made the right decision.’  ‘I’d do it again in a heart-beat.’”

Grandits talked about her non-traditional path to the classroom during the New York State United Teachers’ (NYSUT) Take a Look at Teaching Summit that was recently held at the Kenmore Middle School.  And, though perhaps not intentionally, she served as Exhibit A for the type of professional career changer the Union-led initiative hopes to attract into the profession at a time when the state and nation confronts a looming Teacher shortage.

Statewide, enrollment in teacher education programs has dropped by 47% since 2009 - and last year, SUNY projected The Empire State will need 180,000 Teachers in the next decade.

In addition, the education workforce across the country, as well as in New York, does not reflect the diversity of its communities and student population.  In New York, 43% of students are Hispanic/Latino or African-American, compared to 16% of the Teacher population.

“There are ‘no simple solutions.’  ‘That’s why we started this,’” NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango said of the Take a Look at Teaching Campaign.

The Kenmore summit was attended by Classroom Teachers from across the Buffalo area, Higher Education Professionals, School Administrators and students.  It was the Union’s second in a series of planned meetings, this one held in collaboration with West Seneca and Kenmore Teachers Associations.  A previous summit was held in Syracuse in October and future events are planned for Rochester and Northern New York.

DiBrango said the idea behind the summits is to spark meaningful discussion about the challenges and rewards of teaching, and to “spread the word that Teachers ‘make a difference in their communities.’ ” She added it was important to hear directly from students about what they think makes a good Teacher.

For Aaron Mendez, a junior at Kenmore West High School, what makes a great Teacher is someone “who puts time into getting to know a student, and making sure students really understand a subject” - as opposed to just knowing enough to memorize what they learn and regurgitate that information on a test.

To Continue Reading This Labor News Report, Go To: www.nysut.org/news/2019/january/take-a-look-at-teaching-western-new-york-shines-a-light-on-whats-great-about-the-teaching-profession?fbclid=IwAR0LgRkebL_9I4qKCRdDtw7kmDl3yXbbvq0aN9bB7cIV3gfVwTGJEnld0JA

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