AFT Vice President
Ted Kirsch is president of AFT Pennsylvania and formerly the longtime president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. Both of his parents were trade unionists; his father was a member of the United Auto Workers and Meat Cutters unions, and his mother, a member of the Bookbinders Union.
He received his bachelor’s degree in education from West Chester College in 1960 and earned a master’s degree in education from Temple University in 1970.
Kirsch began his career in 1960, teaching social studies at Thomas Junior High School in Philadelphia. He was the first teacher in the city to teach African-American history as a major credit course, and he has taught courses on labor history, collective bargaining and theory of the labor movement at Penn State University.
Kirsch was elected union representative in 1965 while teaching at Overbrook High School. He joined the PFT's executive board two years later and served as a staff representative from 1970 through 1981. In 1983, Kirsch was elected vice president and supervised all aspects of the union as PFT director of staff until his election as president in 1990.
In addition to his role as an AFT vice president, Kirsch has been director of the PFT’s Committee on Political Education, chair of the Jewish Labor Committee of Philadelphia, vice president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, secretary-treasurer of the Philadelphia AFL-CIO and former president of the Pennsylvania Labor History Society.
Kirsch was elected an AFT vice president in 1990. He is chair of the AFT defense fund and serves on the union’s executive committee. He has participated in numerous AFT investigations at the request of the AFT executive council. Kirsch has received dozens of awards from community, educational and humanitarian organizations and sits on the boards of numerous civic organizations.