Monday night, I stopped by the Teachers Unite kick-off and orientation event, interested in learning more about ways that teachers and community based organizations are working together across the city.

“Public schools should and will reflect the communities they are in,” said organizer Sally Lee. “The role of teachers is to work with members of the community to create an educational space that reflects the values of that community.”

To that end, Teachers Unite plans to partner with community based organizations to use teachers’ unique knowledge and skills to strengthen the work of these organizations. Last year, for example, Teachers Unite presented to a group of parents from Make the Road By Walking, a Bushwick-based economic justice organization. Parents and community activists wanted to know more about the school report cards and alternative assessments, said Lily Ardell, a Teachers Unite member. Lee added that teachers can often provide information about decision-making within schools that helps parents better advocate for their children.

Teachers Unite will be offering free adult English as a Second Language classes to members of VAMOS Unidos, a Bronx-based organization of street vendors. The classes came about in response to needs expressed by VAMOS Unidos organizers, said Teachers Unite member Nancy Gonzales. Through borough committees, Teachers Unite hopes to find other large and small ways for teachers to work with community organizations in the neighborhoods near their schools.

Teachers Unite also hosts forums on a variety of topics, including high stakes testing, how textbooks portray history, and the privatization of schools. Last year’s forums were attended by about 50 people each, said Lee, who estimates that more than 200 people attended at least one event.

The Teachers Unite website is under construction, but interested educators can contact Sally Lee at to find out about future events.