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An open letter from the NYC schools chancellor

By Carmen Farina | 5/9/2014, 10:49 a.m.
Carmen Farina

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Day, this letter, written by Chancellor Carmen Farina, is being distributed to 75,000 public school teachers to show appreciation and gratitude for their dedication to improving the lives of our students.

Dear colleagues,

Few of us remember the teachers who made us spend hours memorizing and spouting back facts. But none of us forget the ones who, with a gentle nudge or a kind word, convinced us that we could achieve endless opportunity. Sister Leonard, my English language arts teacher, was one of the memorable ones.

As a sophomore in high school, I decided to become a teacher. But unbeknownst to me, I was on a non-academic track, taking typing and stenography instead of math and other credit-bearing courses like many classmates. My advisor had apparently decided that a daughter of Spanish immigrants lacked the aptitude and wherewithal to attend college.

Sister Leonard made my cause her personal mission. With her support, I caught up on all the math classes I’d missed, took the Spanish Regents exam—and became the first person in my family to go to college.

One great teacher can transform a life.

On this Teacher Appreciation Day, I want to recognize you—the city’s 75,000 public school teachers—for the countless lives you transform. Thank you for showing up every day, bringing joy to our classrooms and working tirelessly to provide all of our students with a first-rate education.

I know this isn’t an easy job. As a New York City public school teacher for 22 years, I have walked thousands of miles in your shoes. As chancellor, it is now my privilege to walk alongside you. My focus will always be on the critical work you do in the classroom.

As we embark on this journey together, I encourage you to think about teaching as a craft and a profession. Whether you are beginning your career in the classroom or are a veteran in our schools, our 1.1 million students rely on you. We want to help you cultivate your passion, achieve excellence and take your skills to levels you never dreamed possible.

Thanks to our proposed contract with the teachers union, we will be able to deliver unparalleled professional learning: Teachers will have a 75- to 80-minute block of time every week to share successful practices. You will have more time for parent engagement; you can even schedule appointments. In addition, the new contract offers excellent educators formal opportunities to hone their classroom practices, develop their leadership skills and collaborate with and support other educators to improve student achievement. These are monumental changes that will help return dignity and respect to the profession. Going forward, we will give you more tools you need to succeed, including town halls just for teachers and unprecedented on-the-ground support.

In honor of the hard work you do for our school children, I ask you to take some time today to remember a student whose life you have changed: the student who, like me, became the first person in her family to graduate from college; the student who has a career because you cared enough to see the potential others missed. These are the reasons we teach.

Thank you for making a difference in our children’s lives.

Warmly,

Carmen Farina