Eric Benzel

Eric Benzel is a second year math teacher at New Visions Charter High School for Advanced Math and Science in the Bronx.

Q: Why did you decide to become a charter school teacher?

A: When looking for schools, I wasn’t specifically looking for a charter or district school. More importantly, I wanted to find a school where teachers felt supported by their principals, staff worked together closely and students were held to high expectations. Now that I’m working at a charter, I’ve had the opportunity to appreciate how much flexibility and support teachers are given at our school. We have instructional coaches and assistant principals who know what we are doing daily and support us in our classrooms. We have the chance to read essays that students write in other classes so we can get to know our students better. We also get the opportunity to design and teach week long projects with teachers in other content areas. This culture of collaboration is a hallmark of New Visions Charter School, and I believe is a reason that we are able to support students so well.

Q: How has the union made a difference for your school?

A: We are still in the process of negotiating a contract at our school. Yet already, the UFT has helped our staff to have important conversations with the leaders of our school about what we as teachers need to make our school a competitive and sustainable place to work. We are hopeful that the collaboration between the UFT, our staff and the leaders at New Visions will result in a school that teachers want to teach and stay in.

Q: What would you say to your colleagues in non-union charter schools about the union?

A: I think that it is important to realize that charter school educators don’t organize into the Department of Education’s contract. We all get to be a part of the process in putting together a school-based contract that makes sense for the teachers and students at our school. I think that this process is very much in line with the spirit of innovation and independence that teachers at charter schools often appreciate.