Before students and educators return for the start of the new school year, Baltimore City Public Schools host the New Teacher Summer Institute (NTSI) for first year teachers new to the district. This event gives teachers an opportunity to learn about the unique aspects of Baltimore City Schools while also building connections with other first year teachers new to the district. The institute offers teachers exposure to a number of resources available to them as Baltimore city teachers. Perhaps the most important resource for the teachers, like with any worker, is the union. AFT-Maryland participated at the 2023 NTSI engaging new Baltimore Teachers Union (BTU) Local 340 members and informing them of the benefits and affiliations that come along with being members of BTU.
AFT-Maryland Secretary-Treasurer LaBrina Hopkins described how important the institute is for new members to learn about AFT-Maryland and their local union, the BTU. “It’s really important for the union to be here so that new teachers can see that they have advocacy from day one. They’re able to see that support, they’re able to join into the movement and understand that we can work together as a collective for the betterment of students and teachers.” New teachers learned about AFT-Maryland, AFT, and the AFL-CIO.
AFT-Maryland staff informed attendees about the myriad benefits they get from affiliation. Benefits include important worker solidarity and affiliation, legislative and representative advocacy from the state federation, as well as membership benefits that a union member’s entire family can enjoy. These benefits range from discounted car rentals and airline tickets, to student loan programs, to supplemental health and life insurance. Member benefits are offered through the national office of the AFT and the state federation.
Find out more at md.aft.org/member-benefits.
Locally, teachers learned from BTU staff and leadership the value of the union. BTU President Diamonté Brown said that BTU’s presence at NTSI was particularly valuable because had the union not been in attendance “there’s no guarantee that these new teachers would know that they have a union, how to join the union, or what the union can do for them.” NTSI is a wonderful opportunity for BTU to learn about their new members and the new educators who will be leading Baltimore students, but it is also an excellent opportunity for new teachers to learn more about the union.
First year Baltimore city teacher Joel Strautin, a physical education and health teacher at John Ruhrah Elementary-Middle School, appreciated the NTSI because “it’s given us a lot of information but it’s also helped us to be with like-minded teachers in our cohort… We’ve been able to have really good discussions, not just from the facilitators instructing us…, but it’s been a good collaboration in our cohorts.” Strautin also shared an appreciation for the value of the union at NTSI. “It’s valuable in the sense that we’re new, and entering this unknown territory — at least I am, and a lot of the people in our cohort — it’s been helpful to know that there’s somebody there to help us and protect us if we need it.”
The NTSI featured a raffle with vendors offering prizes. AFT-Maryland donated gift cards for Lakeshore Learning Materials for teachers to get supplemental educational materials. Teachers were excited at the chance to add more supplies to their classrooms and eager to get the school year started.