Category Archives: Workforce


SLU Provides 25 Scholarships for Teachers-to-Be in Shortage Areas Across NYC

Earning a degree and passing multiple teaching certification exams is no easy feat, especially for those who are also working, parenting, and managing all the other responsibilities that come along with adult life. Worker Education at SLU understands how challenging this can be and is honored to support NYC’s hard-working, public-school paraprofessionals through our CUNY-wide LEAP to Teacher program.* We are especially thrilled for the opportunity to provide tuition-assistance scholarships this fall to 25 outstanding teachers-to-be, allowing us to support these individuals in their personal quests while also having a positive impact on the education workforce across multiple teacher shortage areas. Huge congratulations to all our scholarship recipients!

And for those of you who dream of becoming a teacher but are feeling daunted by the process, here’s what Nelly Mateo, LEAP to Teacher master’s student at Lehman College (pictured), has to say: “It’s never too late to pursue your dreams. Don’t let your fears become another barrier. Challenge yourself and you’ll be a better version of the person who started.”


*LEAP to Teacher (LTT) is a specialized set of support services designed to empower UFT members to become more effective in their schools and more impactful in their communities. The LTT program assists paraprofessionals working with the DOE in pursuing their undergraduate or graduate degree in any field of study, from the pre-admission stage through graduation. Offered at five partnering CUNY campuses. Learn more by visiting us on the web at

SLU Student Spotlight: Sima Petilli, LEAP to Teacher

Sima Petilli, a special-needs educator and participant in SLU’s LEAP-to-Teacher program who recently earned her master’s degree at Lehman College, was not going to let anything stand in her way of becoming a certified teacher – not even the sudden, mid-semester transition to working, studying, and full-time parenting from home in response to COVID-19, all while also preparing for the edTPA, a challenging certification exam requiring prospective teachers to submit a portfolio of lesson plans, videos, and written responses.

“It’s very easy to get confused and overwhelmed, but in reality, the edTPA is like a wave. You ride from one wave to another,” Sima said of her experience tackling the different portions of the test.

Originally from Russia, Sima first came to the U.S. when she was 13 years old and then moved to Israel to complete her undergraduate studies. She returned to the States afterward to pursue a career in public relations as a Conference Director. But when the company went bankrupt, she realized she wanted a completely different lifestyle. For the past three years, Sima has worked as a special needs preschool teacher in Manhattan, and loves it.

“You never know what could happen during a lesson!” she exclaimed gleefully. “This was a big shift in my career and I’m very happy with my decision.” Read more about Sima.

Spotlight on Students: Montserrat Vargas

By Becky Firesheets

This new reality of life in quarantine is challenging for all of us, but we don’t have to look far to find encouragement and motivation, especially when it comes to our students here at SLU. Montserrat Vargas, an adult learner currently enrolled in Worker Education’s Reading/Writing College Preparation course, recently shared her answers to a few questions about surviving quarantine life. As an immigrant, small business owner, and craftivist workshop leader, her perspective and positivity are especially valuable right now. Check out her inspirational words below, and learn more about her work, including Mujeres Stitchers Virtual Meet-Ups and custom-made embroidery kits, by visiting her website. Continue reading Spotlight on Students: Montserrat Vargas

Spotlight on Staff: Congratulations to Isaac Rodriguez of LEAP to Teacher

By Becky Firesheets

Lehman College’s new LEAP to Teacher Coordinator Isaac Rodriguez is certainly not new to SLU. After two years as the Writing and Research Consultant for the Murphy Institute at Queens College, Isaac is thrilled for this opportunity to step up – and not just because his commute is shorter now.

“I love it so far,” he said of his new role. “It’s much easier to get to. But the advocacy part of the job is most alluring for me. We serve the adult learner; we serve the worker.”

For the uninitiated, LEAP to Teacher (LTT) is a specialized set of support services for UFT paraprofessionals pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in any field of study, offered at five CUNY campuses across all of New York City’s boroughs. Managed by Worker Education at SLU, this program serves nearly 600 students per year and is currently in the process of expanding to BMCC. Continue reading Spotlight on Staff: Congratulations to Isaac Rodriguez of LEAP to Teacher

Advancing Workers’ Rights in the Workforce Development Community

By Becky Firesheets

Sara Esfarayeni, Joanne Mason, and Becky Firesheets recently represented SLU at “Designing a System for the Future of Workers,” the New York City Employment & Training Coalition’s workforce development conference held Monday, September 23rd at the CUNY Graduate Center. The sold-out event featured panels and presentations with various CBOs, educational institutions, and local and city government, focusing on topics such as the role of public policy, utilizing big data, building apprenticeship programs, and how to more effectively support immigrants, women, and people of color in entering and advancing through the workplace. Continue reading Advancing Workers’ Rights in the Workforce Development Community

Worker Education Launches CUNY Days

Worker Education at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies is excited to launch a new semester of “CUNY Days,” in partnership with the DC37 Education Fund.

CUNY Days offers free one-on-one advisement sessions with experienced pre-admission advisors for DC37 members, held at union headquarters (125 Barclay St, NYC). Our advisors begin each session by discussing participants’ career goals then recommending various academic pathways at SLU and/or greater CUNY that could lead toward achieving this goal. Depending on the individual’s needs, sessions might also include application assistance, exploration of various industries and local labor market data, guidance on accessing union tuition benefits and financial aid, and more.

Schedule your session today by visiting

Can’t find a date/time that works for you? Please contact us at or 212-857-1976.