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AFT Massachusetts Announces Recipients of 2020 Distinguished Service Awards

AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos and Secretary-Treasurer Brant Duncan are thrilled to announce the winners of the union’s 2019 Distinguished Service Awards.

The Distinguished Service Awards are presented annually to AFT Massachusetts members who have demonstrated an outstanding level of service and dedication to their local union. Here are this year’s winners:

Educators in the K-12 System

  • Nancy Chakarian, United Teachers of Lowell. After fifty years as a Grade 2 teacher at the Shaughnessy Elementary School, Nancy is retiring at the end of this school year. She has excelled as a long-time Lowell Teacher Academy Mentor to hundreds of new and veteran teachers, and served as a Union Building Representative for at least half of her career. In the words of her colleagues, Nancy “has exemplified the unique qualities great teachers possess: wisdom, adaptability, and commitment. She harnesses strength calmly and convincingly to advocate for and secure better working and learning conditions for all staff and students. She has generously, without pause or hesitation, advanced progress, achieved goals, and has left an indelibly positive mark on our union, school culture, and community.“ Congratulations Nancy!
  • Nicole Reminder, North Attleboro Federation of Teachers. Nicole, a Middle School Inclusion Teacher, is the president of the North Attleboro Federation of Teachers. As president, she has spent countless hours fighting for fair funding for community public schools. She tirelessly fought for the first ever successful Proposition 2 ½ override in North Attleboro history, leading the charge house by house, street by street. In the words of her colleagues, Nicole “has breathed new life into our union. Nicole has balanced a good working relationship with our superintendent and a strong sense of solidarity in helping to protect our members and successfully negotiate better pay and working conditions. Her judicious leadership and discernment in regards to appropriate use of our collective power has been a hallmark of her leadership style. She is a tireless advocate for our membership.” Congratulations Nicole!

Municipal Librarian

  • Dan Haacker, Massachusetts Library Staff Association. Dan served as vice president of the MLSA for the past 25 years and has been a guiding light for the LLSA from its infancy as an affiliate of the AFT MA. Dan retired in 2017 from the Milton Public Library after a forty-year career, including time as the East Milton branch librarian and as assistant director with system-wide responsibilities. He represented the members of the Milton Library Staff Association as secretary, vice-president, and president. In the words of his colleagues, Dan “has worked tirelessly to promote the union and the library profession. Dan has joined many a picket line in support of striking union members: he has exemplified the union mantra of ‘solidarity’ and carries his union values with him always. We will miss Dan’s guidance and repository of institutional knowledge.“ Congratulations Dan!

School-Related Personnel

  • Deborah Murphy, AFT Amesbury. Deborah has been a member of AFT Amesbury and a paraprofessional unit representative since the unit was recognized in 2001, and has been an executive board member for 18 years. Deb frequently speaks up at local school committees and participates in union political activities, and she regularly solves problems at the building level. In the words of her colleagues, Deborah “consistently demonstrates she has the student’s best interest at heart. She is fierce when it comes to supporting her members in the workplace. She is professional, knowledgable, and available. If information needs to be shared with paras she will literally walk classroom to classroom spending time with each para. She is a strong advocate for the paraprofessional unit she represents and a highly devoted paraprofessional educator, union and community activist and leader.” Congratulations Deborah!
  • Fay Borgatti, Springfield Federation of Paraprofessionals. As a para-educator in the Springfield Public Schools, Fay has been an active member of the Federation from the time of her initiation in 2007. Fay has served as a Building Representative, At-Large member of the Executive Board, Acting-Secretary, and currently holds the office of Treasurer and a position on the Executive Board. In the words of her colleagues, Fay “diligently performs the services of her office by maintaining impeccable financial records, membership rolls, and diligent financial oversight for the local. In addition to serving on the Federation’s negotiation team, Fay collaborated on the creation of training/reference manuals for each of the Building Representatives and Executive Board members. She often suggests activities that contribute to the local community and boost the public image of the local.“ Congratulations Fay!

Retired Member

  • Garret Virchick, Boston Teachers Union. Garret has been a BTU member for more than thirty years and served as a building representative at his schools including Fenway High School, Brighton High School, and West Roxbury Academy. He’s served as an Executive Board member, a negotiating team member, and Co-Editor of the Boston Union Teacher newspaper, where he has written numerous opinion pieces, news stories, book reviews, essays, and attention-grabbing headlines to keep BTU members informed. In the words of his colleagues, “Garret is a consummate organizer, always reaching out to new members to bring them in to union involvement, and mentoring new educators and activists. Over the years he has served our union with dedication, distinction, and diligence. We can always count on Garret to show up for a demonstration, rally, phone bank, march, or meeting to move forward the struggle on behalf of educators and all working people.” Congratulations Garret!

Member 35 or Younger

  • Katharine Visci, Salem Teachers Union. A Learning Skills Teacher at Collins Middle School, Katharine has been an AFT member for 4 years. During the Fund Our Future campaign, Katherine was always on the front lines for walk-ins, red shirt days, and organizing efforts. She served as her school’s representative on the union’s Contract Action Team and now serves as a Member Organizer for the union. In the words of her colleagues, Katherine “has been instrumental in organizing phone banks, social events, parent forums, and contacting members to keep them informed via phone calls, emails, and social media. We are continually impressed by her enthusiastic commitment to her fellow AFT members and her ability to lead the drive to bring about the change the students, families, and teachers of Salem deserve.” Congratulations Katherine!
  • Chantei Alves, Boston Teachers Union. A K-1 teacher, Chantei is in her first year as a Building Rep and serves as a member of the Instructional Leadership team at her school. Chantei has been very active supporting several union committees, including the Inclusion Done Right committee and Black Caucus. In the words of her colleagues, Chantei “has been very supportive in her role. She has been a part of hiring conversations making sure that there is a building rep on all hiring teams. She organized the school’s Faculty Senate meetings, supports the grievance process and makes sure all steps are followed through, and checks in with members and creates a personal email for anyone needing support for union business. Chantei has worked so well creating trust while being the positive bridge for everyone and administration at her school.“ Congratulations Chantei! 

And congratulations to all the recipients of the 2019 Distinguished Service Awards!

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