Medals of Honor
Published in Inside - Volume XIII, No. 6
Medals of Honor
TC to honor Paterson, Weingarten and Ladson-Billings at Convocation ceremonies
At Convocation exercises in May, TC will honor three pioneers with the Teachers College Medal for Distinguished Service. This year’s honorees are David Paterson, Governor of New York, Randi Weingarten, President of the United Teachers Federation and Gloria Ladson-Billings, Kellner Family Professor in Urban Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Governor of New York
One of the most dynamic young leaders on the New York State political scene, Paterson, who was born legally blind, has powerfully advocate on behalf of minorities, women and the physically and visually impaired, bring to bear a far-reaching understanding of health issues ranging from diet and exercise to stem-cell research.
The son of Basil Paterson, the first African American to serve as New York’s Secretary of State, he at one point occupied the same State Senate seat his father had held. The younger Paterson led the fight for such measures as New York State’s Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act and has championed causes ranging from affordable housing and environmental issues to architectural preservation and race relations. Paterson is a Columbia alumnus and also took courses at Teachers College.
Paterson will speak at the Master’s degree ceremony in Riverside Church on Tuesday, May 20 at 3:00pm.
President of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT)
Weingarten has pioneered in using the United Federation of Teachers presidency as a pulpit from which to seek better resources and improved outcomes for the city’s 1 million-plus public school students. She earned her spurs serving as the right hand to then UFT president Sandra Feldman, playing a lead role in contract negotiations and enforcement. She has since led UFT through a period of dramatic growth during which salaries of UFT-represented public school employees have increased by 43 percent and overseen the creation and enhancement of more than 350 school-based UFT Teacher Center sites.
On her watch, UFT also has become a major source of student scholarships and a go-to resource for after-school homework help for thousands of students. The UFT also worked closely with parents and community leaders during the 13-year legal battle to bring additional funds to city schools, and Weingarten championed a condition of the final package awarded by the state legislature that calls for significant reduction in class sizes. She also has established UFT as a public charter school operator in New York City.
Weingarten will speak at the Master’s degree ceremony in Riverside Church on Tuesday, May 20 at 7:00pm.
Kellner Family Professor in Urban Education, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ladson-Billings’ work in multicultural studies, culturally relevant pedagogy and critical race theory includes her landmark book, The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children, which profiles eight outstanding educators and their classroom approaches to affirming cultural identity. She has received both the Palmer O. Johnson Award and the Early Career Award from the American Educational Research Association.
In an era of standardized tests and Average Yearly Progress, Ladson-Billings has insisted that teacher quality be defined primarily by an educator’s understanding of community and context. Her visionary certification for elementary school teachers, “Teach for Diversity”—outlined in her book Crossing Over to Canaan: The Journey of New Teachers in Diverse Classrooms—focuses on the different circumstances that mediate student learning and affect student performance.
As AERA president in 2005, Ladson-Billings outlined the nation’s “education debt” and called attention to the many factors in its making that have disproportionately affected non-white students. And at the symposium that launched TC’s “Teaching The Levees” curriculum, she memorably described the U.S. as “a country where some people matter more than others, even in death,” declaring that we must “make up our minds as citizens that it matters when people die, or when people lose everything they have.”
Ladson-Billings will speak at the Doctoral degree ceremony in Riverside Church on Wednesday, May 21st at 2:30pm.