Elementary Special Education Teacher in Sunset Park, Brooklyn
My name is Annie Tan, I am a proud elementary special education teacher in Sunset Park, and I am running to be your UFT Secretary. I am currently in my tenth year teaching, in my sixth year here in NYC and four years in Chicago, and a proud former paraprofessional. I know from my experiences in the DOE, as a MORE-UFT member and current Steering Committee member, and with the Chicago Teachers Union that collective action gets the goods and that we must mobilize our members and chapters to win the schools our students deserve.
During the pandemic, I have been outspoken on probably every single NYC-based publication speaking on behalf of school safety concerns where our union has left us; that work, alongside the work of the MORE-UFT media committee, publicized many issues in NYC schools, informed UFT members on conditions where UFT communications have left us, and won many pandemic victories such as the closure of schools March 2020, the existence of the Daily COVID Case Map, and delayed reopening of schools in Fall 2020.
At my school, we have built a robust union chapter with a communications system across staff, a consultation committee that meets regularly to compile issues across the grades, and have worked to win safer working conditions in classrooms during the pandemic.
As UFT Secretary I promise to take the lead of our educators on the ground, communicate that message clearly, and to strategize based on the needs of our students and staff.
I have wanted to be a teacher since I was six years old and give back to the NYC public schools system which I am a graduate of. I follow in the legacy of my great-auntie Lily Chin who fought for justice for Vincent Chin, her son who was murdered in 1982 during a wave of anti-Asian sentiment, which led an Asian American movement that lives on today. In 2011 the NYC elementary hiring freeze forced me to find an alternate path, so I joined Teach For America in Chicago and a non-unionized charter school which forced staff into horrible teaching conditions, such as me teaching five grade levels of special education as a first-year teacher. The following year I wore red with 10,000 educators during the 2012 Chicago Teachers Union Strike; educators fought for and won raises commensurate to an extended school day, against merit pay schemes and rising health insurance payments. After switching to a public school I found out from the Chicago Teachers Union special education committee that my non-unionized charter school broke special education law. I served as chair of the Chicago Teachers Union Special Education Committee from 2014-16 to make sure the rights of our students with disabilities were protected; our students’ learning conditions are our staff working conditions, after all. In 2015 I helped co-found the Chicago Special Education Task Force, a coalition of community, parent, student, and educator advocates which was able to stop hundreds of special education-related layoffs and in fact hire 150 more staff for our students. The work of the Task Force led to an investigation by the Illinois State Board of Education which found Chicago Public Schools to have delayed and denied services to over 10,000 students from 2016-18 and led to state oversight over Chicago’s special education program.
This work was only possible by listening to and following the work of our educators, students, community and allies, and this taught me to delegate and let others take the lead. We can only win when we all know that WE are the union and act as such.
We need a union that will mobilize us, organize us, and let us take the lead for what our students and staff deserve.