AFT Innovation Fund

Bright Idea

Since 2009, the American Federation of Teachers' Innovation Fund has made more than 100 investments across the country to local union affiliates, with the purpose of identifying, nurturing and promoting union-led innovations in public education to improve teaching and learning and invest in the communities in which our members live and work. 

The AFT Innovation Fund supports the AFT's work to provide What Kids and Communities Need. This year, we are awarding 14 grants. These grants address the systemic challenges school districts face, such as critical shortages of educators, and they look forward to meeting the promise of what students can become through investments in career and technical education. They expand on promising methods of community inclusion, such as community schools, and they deepen our commitments to literacy education. We invited local and state K-12, PSRP and higher education members, with support from their affiliate president, to submit applications that focused on these crucial areas. Please join us in congratulating the 14 winners:

Baltimore Teachers Union (MD)

President: Diamonte Brown

The Baltimore Teachers Union will identify a cohort of middle school students and help them explore career options and interests. This will allow the students to make more informed decisions about selecting a high school with areas of study that match their interests.

BOCES Educators of Eastern Suffolk (NY)

President: Asha Mazza-Shaw

The BOCES Educators of Eastern Suffolk will support students who attend their CTE academies with out-of-pocket expenses for materials and equipment to complete their courses.

Buckeye Local Education Association (OH)

President: Elizabeth Hasel

The Buckeye Local Education Association will expand its literacy program called the Confetti Project to match students with reading interests and pair them with adult volunteers.

Cory-Rawson Education Association (OH)

President: Wendi Davis

The Cory-Rawson Education Association is expanding its community schools initiative by establishing a new partnership with the YMCA to offer and expand on-site early child care for families in need. This will improve kindergarten readiness and provide a pipeline for recruiting and retaining early childhood staff.

Education Minnesota (MN)

President: Denise Sprecht

Education Minnesota will link its aspiring educators program with its early career program to strengthen recruitment and retention efforts for education careers.

Faculty Association of Jefferson Community College (NY)

President: Jack Donato

The Faculty Association of Jefferson Community College will host a business and leadership symposium. This event will educate, inspire and connect high school and college students with pathways to career and technical education and entrepreneurship.

Fort Edward Teachers Association (NY)

President: Marianne Stark

The Fort Edward Teachers Association will strengthen CTE in its school district by upgrading its machine tooling capabilities and training its educators and students on its use to match local industry demands.

Leon Classroom Teachers Association

President: Scott Mazur

The Leon Classroom Teachers Association will expand its leadership training and shared decision-making models in three schools to improve teaching and learning and engage teachers during their early career years.

New Haven Federation of Teachers (CT)

President: Leslie Blatteau

The New Haven Federation of Teachers will create and expand opportunities for educators to collaborate and support new educators. This will include professional learning sessions designed to improve well-being.

Newtown Federation of Teachers (CT)

President: Trent Harrison

The Newtown Federation of Teachers will help fund the Newtown High School Greenery program. This garden program supplies food for the CTE culinary program and an agricultural laboratory for students. 

Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association

President: Nancy Velardi

The Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association will partner with the AFT, Pinellas County Schools, local colleges of education and educator preparation programs, community groups, families and students to improve working conditions and address education workforce shortages.

Texas AFT (TX)

President: Zeph Capo

Texas AFT will create and expand an educator apprenticeship and training program to directly address teacher shortages.

West Genesee Substitute Teachers Association (NY)

President: StephanieAlexandra Yanulis Kukulski

The West Genesee Substitute Teachers Association will create and offer professional learning for substitute educators in classroom management, social-emotional learning, special education, safety and classroom technology. It will also offer courses in content areas for substitutes to deepen their teaching skills.

Yonkers Federation of Teachers (NY)

President: Samantha Rosado-Ciriello

The Yonkers Federation of Teachers will expand its Take a Look at Teaching/Grow Your Own (TALAT/GYO) program. This program is a pipeline into the teaching profession for the diverse body of Yonkers students that offers introductory teacher education seminars, college credit-bearing education certification classes and clinical experiences through classroom internships.





The 14 funded projects—which include grants for teachers in Leon and Pinellas counties—aim to recruit and retain educators, bolster career and technical education to prepare students for the future, and aid community schools’ work to build bridges between the needs of communities and the needs of students in schools.

Read the press release

In the 2022-23 grant cycle, these grants will focus on Educator Retention initiatives and Career Technical Education initiatives.

Learn More
Teacher and student

Innovation Fund

Rapid Response Grants: Cycle 1