05/29/2014

AFT announces 2014 Everyday Heroes

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The AFT has announced its 2014 AFT Everyday Heroes after a nationwide nomination and voting process. Nine extraordinary union members will be honored at the AFT's national convention in Los Angeles this July.

"These awardees are but a small sample of the tens of thousands of everyday heroes who educate our children, protect our communities, keep our families healthy and dedicate their lives to the service of others," says AFT President Randi Weingarten. "Their contributions to our communities are remarkable and should be honored and celebrated. The entire AFT family congratulates these extraordinary everyday heroes."

AFT members are recognized from seven categories (representing teachers, paraprofessionals and school-related personnel, higher education staff and faculty, healthcare professionals, public employees, early childhood education and retirees) for going beyond their daily responsibilities and making a difference every day in the workplace or the community.

The 2014 Everyday Heroes are:

AFT Teachers
Julie Ahern
Third Grade Teacher
Andrew Cooke Magnet School, Waukegan, Ill.
Lake County Federation of Teachers, Local 504
Julie uses her background in business and marketing to find new resources and opportunities for the students at her school, where everyone qualifies for federal meal assistance. Thanks for donations she has helped secure, all of Julie's students own laptops, and her classroom boasts 12 iPads and a 3-D printer for student use.

AFT Paraprofessionals and School-Related Personnel
Richie Pawlak
Computer Programmer
Morton College, Cicero, Ill.
Cook County College Teachers Union, Local 1600
An accomplished bass guitarist who plays in three bands, Richie participates with one of his bands in a breast cancer awareness event each October in his suburban Chicago neighborhood. Richie also goes door to door asking businesses to donate baskets for a fundraising raffle associated with the event, and even helps firefighters sell chocolate bars for the cause. Last year, the effort raised $10,000.

AFT Higher Education
Krystal Woolston
Assistant Director of Service Learning and Community Engagement
Montclair State University, Montclair, N.J.
Montclair State Faculty, Professional Staff and Librarians, Local 1904
Krystal sets up opportunities for her students to do service projects ranging from tutoring middle school students to organizing relief efforts for Superstorm Sandy. Using her vacation time, she has worked on rebuilding projects in Haiti and has run service trips for students to post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, and to Asheville, N.C., where students work on hunger projects.

AFT Public Employees
Jim Cardin
Manufacturing Technology Department Head
Windham Technical High School, Willimantic, Conn.
State Vocational Federation of Teachers, Local 4200A
Jim is proof that belonging to a union means you are never alone. After his teaching partner of seven years, Gary Lutsky, was diagnosed with cancer, Jim took on both his and Gary's workload, ensuring that his students continued to receive high-quality instruction. On weekends, Jim drove other co-workers to Boston to visit Gary at the hospital to boost his spirits. When it became clear Gary would have to retire, Jim took responsibility for making sure all his paperwork was in order.

AFT Healthcare
Lisa D'Abrosca, Stephanie Johnson and Harry Rodriguez
Presidents of AFT Connecticut Locals 5049, 5051 and 5123
Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, New London, Conn.
Three locals, one union. That's the motto of the three locals at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, where unity helped members through a fight to keep patient care services in their community hospital—including a strike, a lockout and, ultimately, a successful contract negotiation. By working together, these locals fought outsourcing and took back their hospital.

AFT Early Childhood
Maria Alamo
Prekindergarten Paraeducator
Marshall School, Hempstead, N.Y.
Hempstead Teaching Assistants Association, Local 4664
Maria knows how to connect with young learners—especially those for whom English is not their first language. Her ability to help prekindergarten students get off on the right foot has made her the go-to educator at her school—the adult with the uncanny ability to connect with very young learners and get to the core of the matter.

AFT Retirees
Carol Keiser
Retired Teacher
Pawtucket, R.I.
Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, Local 8037R
After 29 years in the classroom, Carol turned her attention to mentoring new teachers and building the membership of her local retiree chapter. She writes a column for the newsletter of her former local to help educate retirees about the benefits available to them. She also heads a communications committee of retirees dedicated to keeping retired members up to date on a lawsuit challenging changes to the state's pension system.

Thirty-five semifinalists, selected by the AFT from a field of more than 300 nominees from across the United States, received more than 50,000 online votes from teachers, students, parents and colleagues—more than three times the 2012 vote tally. The AFT put out a call for nominations of members who go above and beyond the call of duty. [AFT press release]

May 29, 2014