NYSUT members travel to Europe to help Ukrainian, Polish students

For the first time in nearly two decades, Colette Hebert planned to take a summer break from work. But the call of a summer camp on a continent far away proved too strong to keep her home.

The Yonkers Federation of Teachers member and music teacher is among four NYSUT members participating in a 15-year delegation of educators from around the country for a two -week summer camp in Poland to work with students from Ukraine and Poland devastated by the war. The trip-organized by the American Federation of Teachers, NATAN Worldwide Disaster Relief and the Kosciuszko and Folkowisko foundations-aims to provide educational support to 12 to 15-year-olds affected by war disruptions through experience, based in the project. outdoor activities.

Hebert was accompanied by fellow YFT member Shai Stephenson, Syracuse TA member Jean-Pierre Rosas and Alexandra Hernandez of the United Federation of Teachers. Beyond helping with the teaching of English, the purpose of the delegation was to provide some similarity to normal for students.

“I think music can bring students from everywhere,” Hebert said of his specialty. “I have 1,000 students. Some of my students don’t speak English … but you don’t have to speak English to make music together. ”

Hernandez, a bilingual special education teacher, added, “We can be a beacon of hope to these amazing people who have lost so much and make sure they are not forgotten.”

Like her colleagues, Rosas was eager to apply for camp. English as a New Language educator teaches refugee students in Syracuse and travels abroad to work with disadvantaged children. He said the academic work in helping Polish and Ukrainian students grow their English skills would be important, but the social-emotional work they would do was important.

“I think that’s the most important part,” Rosas said. “It’s very hard to reach someone at the academic level if you’re not focused on the emotional thing.”

At home, war continues to be top-of-mind for many New York educators. They faced questions in the classroom about the Russian invasion, felt first person effect of war and committed themselves to local efforts to help the Ukrainians. Teachers preparing this summer for the coming school year have access to Share My Lesson resources to help educate about the ongoing war and the geopolitical context surrounding it. More information is available online at sharemylesson.com/blog/teaching-ukraine-war.

Meanwhile, the AFT delegation will have some unique lessons to be taught. Elementary teacher Stephenson is another world traveler whose time of service in the Peace Corps, including earthquake-devastated Haiti, and teaching in China and the United Arab Emirates has led to so many experiences he shares with students. study. Traveling to Poland is no different.

“We have an extraordinary group of teachers. I think teachers can get a lot out of it, ”she said. “Of course, we will bring back to our classrooms whatever we have learned and experienced.”