Our Board

Our Board

 
 

Valencia Gabriel

UTD Teaching Excellence Foundation Board Member


Ms. Gabriel serves on the Executive Board of United Teachers of Dade as the Vice President for High Schools and is the facilitator for the UTD/AFT Teacher Leader Program. Ms. Gabriel is also one of 26 teachers selected to participate in the iHeat Program as a Peer Observer.

Brian Firtell

UTD Teaching Excellence Foundation Board Member


I currently teach at Lawton Chiles Middle School, which I helped open 16 years ago. I am continuing a family tradition at UTD; both of my parents were longtime members of our union. My father was the steward at Air Base Elementary for over 25 years and my mother was a steward at Frank C. Martin Elementary and a former Executive Board member in the late 1970s through the early 1980s.
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I have been a member of UTD for 30 years, 25 of them as a Building Steward. Over the last 15 years, I have served UTD in a number of ways. I have been Lead Steward for the North Region; a member of the Paper Reduction Task Force and District Safety Task Force; and I am currently Co-Chair of the District Safety Task Force. I also served on the Collective Bargaining Team two years ago and I am currently a delegate to the FEA Delegate Assembly. I feel that the time that my time as a middle school educator has made me aware of problems that our teachers every day. I want to be a strong voice to help middle school teachers succeed and reach their potential every day.

Vincent Davis

UTD Teaching Excellence Foundation Board Member


I am a native Miamian, educated in the Miami-Dade County Public School System. After graduating from Miami Northwestern High School, I attained a Bachelor's Degree from Florida International University; a Master's Degree from Nova Southeastern University with a major in Exceptional Student Education; and an Educational Specialist Degree from Nova Southeastern University with a major in Reading Education.
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I am a Leadership Miami graduate and currently certified in Reading, Varying Exceptionalities and Mentally Handicapped. I began my career at Brownsville Middle School in 1997, teaching students with special needs. In addition, I developed an after school program for students with reading deficits. I also coached boys' basketball and raised funds to purchase much-needed team uniforms. I left Brownsville in 2003 to take advantage to work as a Teacher/Trainer for the Let's Enhance Adolescent Pride Program (LEAP). In 2004, I joined C.O.P.E. Center North, where I taught English IV and various subjects in Exceptional Student Education (ESE). I currently teach Intensive Reading to students who have yet to achieve mastery on the FCAT and/or FSA/ELA. I was honored to be among five finalists for the 2010 Francisco Walker Teacher of the Year Award. I have served or currently serve on numerous committees, including: • Literacy Team • School Improvement Plan • School Discipline (Chairperson) • Educational Excellence School Advisory • School Safety For ten years, I have served as the Designated Building Steward at my school. I work to provide a support system for our members, and insist on due process for all. I am also committed to doing all I can for our students. That includes putting my own money towards school supplies and scholarships, and sometimes buying school lunch for students who cannot do so on their own. I am always willing to go beyond the call of duty to ensure that students have the opportunity to not only excel in school but in life as well.

Beverly Dowell

UTD Teaching Excellence Foundation Board Member


As a building steward for the past 16 years, I have tackled issues that affect instruction, professionalism, working conditions, employee morale and ultimately, student achievement. I have approached my responsibilities with tenacity and determination to strive for justice and equity in our school system. My goal is to break down barriers and build bridges of advocacy for all our members.
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My pledge is to work diligently and tirelessly for you. I will: • Be a voice for equality and justice for all members, regardless of work location. • Demand that teachers’ issues at all grade levels are heard at Executive Board meetings and become a priority on the agenda of our leadership. • Defend and uphold the fight for equality on contractual language for our members working in clerical, paraprofessional and security positions. We must provide opportunities for these professionals to advance in their careers. • Advocate for quality professional development at worksites to help all UTD members reach their full potential. • Represent all members as a member of the Florida Education Association (FEA) Governance Board. With your vote I will focus on: • Policing and reinforcing our contract. • Increasing salaries for all members. • Interpreting and clarifying the current mandates and laws impacting education reform. • Giving teaching professionals a voice for their concerns. • Being accessible to members. • Working to strengthen our political clout and career paths for members. I ask for your vote!

Charles Carr

UTD Teaching Excellence Foundation Board Member


My name is Charles Carr. I have been a teacher at Carol City Elementary for eight years and a member of UTD for the same amount of time. I am a product of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools system, having attended North County Elementary, Lake Stevens Middle and American High School.
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I attended college at Miami-Dade College, Nova Southeastern University, and the University of Miami (Go Canes!). My father is a retired Teamster who taught me the importance of unionism. I have been an active and vocal member of UTD, serving our members in various capacities. As a member of the UTD Bargaining Team, I helped negotiate a $53 million health and benefits package on behalf of our teachers, paraprofessionals, security monitors, and office staff. I have served on the Teacher of the Year committee as well as the Rookie Teacher of the Year Committee. I have also served as alternate steward, steward, and currently as the designated steward for my school. I have taught a class for UTD on preparing for the IPEGS review and am currently an active member of the Judicial Review Committee. I have represented UTD on four Congressional Black Caucuses trips to Washington and I am a current UTD/AFT/FEA/NEA delegate. I love working with and for my union. I am a dedicated teacher, determined to help my students achieve greatness. I have seen the effect an empowered and informed staff of education professionals can have on a school. I've also seen what happens when management enforces a cookie-cutter approach while disenfranchising true education professionals. Teaching and learning should be an organic process. That's why, I am a strong proponent of academic freedom a vocal critic of "teaching to the test" policies. I hope you will vote for me join me on the Frontline to fight for the education of the children of Dade County.

Angie Gonzalez

UTD Teaching Excellence Foundation Board Member


I am a special education teacher at South Pointe Elementary, where I have serve for eight years as designated union steward. I represent my colleagues in resolving issues and work to avoid potential problems before they occur. I am focused on forceful representation for UTD members and working to enhance professional standards for all school employees.
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In 2004, I received National Board Certification in Exceptional Education for early childhood and young adults. Since then, I have served as a mentor to new teachers. My professional activities include: • Adjunct professor at the Center for Professional Learning • Education Research and Dissemination (ER&D) instructor for the Florida Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers • Teaching courses in in “Managing Anti-Social Behavior” and “Making Data Work for You” • Preparing special education teachers and paraprofessionals for state exams • Preparing special education teachers and paraprofessionals for state exams I believe that a strong voice in the workplace is the best way to stand up for quality teaching. That’s why I’ve joined rallies to protest education cuts; that’s why I spoke up at a Town Hall meeting with the U.S. Secretary of Labor to advocate for UTD members, and that’s why I’m proud to serve on the UTD legislative committee, discussing issues affecting our bargaining unit with local and state elected officials. I hope you will join me in supporting the Frontline Caucus. We are advocates for public education, high professional standards, and transparency in our union.

Cassandra Holmes

UTD Teaching Excellence Foundation Board Member


As an alternate steward at Access Center IV, I represent my co-workers and I am active throughout our union, providing information to members across Miami-Dade County and attending rallies and other functions to advocate for school employees. I am proud to have been selected as Steward of the Year in four consecutive years: 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005.
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Since that time, I have continued to serve and strived to make a difference. In 2011, I was selected as a Steward of the Year Finalist for Region III. My passion continues to grow, and I am excited for the opportunity to run for re-election to the office of vice president representing Elementary Schools. I have served several years as a designated steward, Executive Board member for the South Florida AFL-CIO Working Families United and as a UTD Executive Board member (one that represents all members). I am asking for your support to continue and expand my work on behalf of UTD members. I have enjoyed serving my union brothers and sisters in various areas, and I have also enjoyed sharing information so that all of us have increased knowledge. Some of you call me “the bold one” and others “the big mouth one”! I will never hesitate to be bold, or think big, when it comes to speaking up for our members and for public education. My goal is simple; I desire to become an even more effective spokesperson for myself and on behalf of my union brothers and sisters. Knowledge is POWER!]

Larry Howell

UTD Teaching Excellence Foundation Board Member


Mr. Howell is currently a teacher at Miami Northwestern Senior High School.  As a member of the United Teachers of Dade he has been a (UTD) Designated Union Steward and now sits on the Executive Board. Mr. Howell has an M.S. Education from Barry University and a B.S. Business Management degree from Tuskegee University. He is currently a Doctoral Student  (Educational Leadership) at NOVA Southeastern University in Davie, Florida.

Monica Howell

UTD Teaching Excellence Foundation Board Member


Throughout my career as an educator, I have been a persistent and effective advocate for teachers. With the backing of the UTD, I helped challenge and change the M-DCPS Human Resource policies pertaining to nursing mothers. I encourage my students to know their rights as Americans and to be civically engaged. I currently serve as chair of the social studies department at Hialeah Gardens High School.
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A longtime resident of northwest Miami-Dade, I previously taught at several middle schools in the area, including Jose Marti, Hialeah and Hialeah Gardens. Since I began my teaching career nine (9) years ago, I have been a contributing member of UTD. I have served as a Building Steward and am currently on the Member Mobilization Team. I'm honored to participate in numerous UTD advocacy efforts, such as Target Tallahassee, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and meetings of the Legislative Committee. Your decision to support me as a Vice President At-Large will yield abundant results.

Joy Jackson

UTD Teaching Excellence Foundation Board Member


I was born and educated in Miami Dade County and I have 43 years of experience as a classroom teacher in Miami Dade County Public Schools. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in music education from Barry University and a master’s degree from Florida International University, I began my teaching career at Redondo Elementary School.
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I am very grateful that my work on behalf of my students has been recognized with three nominations for Teacher of the Year. As a union activist, I have always been a passionate advocate for my co-workers, and I am honored to have received the Region One Exceptional Student Education Steward of the Year Award. I am presently the band director at Robert Renick Educational Center. My union and professional activities include: • Chairperson, Educational Excellence School Advisory Council • High School Team Leader • Chairperson, Positive Behavior Support • Designated Steward, UTD • Vice President for Middle School, UTD Executive Board I am the mother of two beautiful daughters and I am also founder and pastor of Christian Fellowship Center, where I have served for the last 26 years. I ask for you vote, so I can continue to serve you and our membership has Vice President – Middle School.
 

Wildrede Jacques

UTD Teaching Excellence Foundation Board Member


During the past 12 years of working as a paraprofessional, I have had the honor of assisting outstanding teachers and administrators in successfully completing challenging tasks both inside and outside the classroom. I currently serve as the designated United Teachers of Dade steward for Scott Lake Elementary, and on the UTD Executive Board as Vice President – Paraprofessionals.
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I have respectfully represented all bargaining units at my school and made sure that everyone was always informed about all current events. I attend every UTD meeting, school board meetings, and effectively assist staff members in uniting them to support our union by voting on issues that affect us. I have served during a tough financial time which challenged the trust that union members have in their union. I have worked diligently to regain that trust, as evidenced by the increase in UTD member enrollment at my school. Due to my dedication to students and colleagues, I was nominated as Paraprofessional of the Year in 2006 and again in 2009. It was a great honor for me, not only to be nominated, but to also become one of the finalists both times. I would like to continue my leadership and dedication through service as your vice president of paraprofessionals. With my experience, perseverance, and integrity, I will continue to work and fight for you to ensure that your voices will always be heard.

Valarie B. Johnson

UTD Teaching Excellence Foundation Board Member


I've held the position of administrative assistant to vice principals of William H. Turner Adult Education Center since 1993. As administrative assistant, my duties include student registration, United Way Ambassador, and the Community Blood Drive Coordinator and school-site liaison. During my twenty-eight year tenure with Miami-Dade County Public Schools, I have had the honor of being nominated as the Office Employee of the Year twice.
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I have also held positions as school registrar and magnet secretary. My twenty-eight years of service to UTD members includes: • Vice President, School Support Personnel Executive Board • Alternate Steward • Committee Member, UTD District Task Force for Office Employee of the Year • Union Delegate for Education Support Professionals (ESP) • FEA, AFT and NEA Delegate Assembly • Target Tallahassee • Meany Labor College-Strategic Planning • Faciltator, Education Summit Workshop • Member,ESP • Member, UTD Black Caucus • Collective Bargaining Unit • Speaker at School Board Meetings During my years with UTD, I have witnessed the passion, dedication and commitment of our member and officers. I'm inspired to work for the union label and proud to run for the School Support Personnel position as part of the UTD Frontline Caucus. My current position and committee appointments demonstrate my ability to execute the job of Vice President, School Support Personnel. Your support will allow me to continue my efforts to improve working condition for our members and promote the ideas and mission of United Teachers of Dade.

Tom Lander

UTD Teaching Excellence Foundation Board Member


I pride myself in representing the needs of everyday members. I would consider it an honor a privilege to serve as vice president at-large on the UTD’s Executive Board. I am proud to be a part of the Frontline Caucus, Moving Stronger to make sure all of us who work in the schools have a voice in our own future. My union and community experience includes:
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• 33-year member of United Teachers of Dade (UTD). • UTD Alternate Steward at Dr. Michael Krop Senior High School (08-Present). • UTD Organizer, 2003 -2008. • UTD Executive Board, Vice President at Large. • American Federation Teachers Project Organizer (2001-2003). • Organized the first successful United Faculty of Florida union election at Florida Community College of Jacksonville (2002). • Had over seventy percent of professors sign cards to retain their union at FIU, FAU, FGCU, UF, FSU, and UCF. • UTD Assistant Director of Membership (1999-2001). • Founding member of the National Substitute Teacher Alliance (NSTA). • UTD Teacher Specialist: Political Organizer (1996, 1998, 2000 and 2006). • UTD Teacher Specialist: School Based Management and Substitute Teacher issues (1997-1998). • UTD Future Leaders Class (1995). • Lead Steward, Region I (1994-1996). • Designated Steward, American Senior High School (1985-1996) • Target Tallahassee, three years. I have also participated in union training and education programs which have helped shape my skills as an advocate for my co-workers, including: • George Meany Labor Center (1998). • FIU’s Center for Labor Studies (2001). • AFT Southern Region Union Labor Institutes (1997, 2001, 2002). I ask for your support so we can move stronger together as advocates for all MCDPS staff.

Thomas Nunn

UTD Teaching Excellence Foundation Board Member


It is an honor and privilege serving UTD and its members. My number one priority as a member of our union’s Executive Board and steward in my building is to provide service to our members. I have worked in various ways, from the classroom to administration, to advance the interests of our members.
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This includes lobbying the school board as well as state and national legislators for better working conditions and benefits. My experience as an advocate for public education and for school professionals continues to grow. My commitment is to continue to learn and expand my skill base so I can be the best possible advocate for our members and our union, and the students and parents we serve. My experience includes: • Member, Executive Board, UTD. • Lead Steward, Lindsey Hopkins Technical Education Center. • Member, Executive Board, Miami Dade AFL-CIO. • Chairperson, UTD Political Action Committee. • Member, UTD Internal Functions Committee. • Member, UTD Constitutional and Bylaws Committee. • Member, UTD Economic Services Committee. • Participant, “Target Tallahassee” trips to support UTD members and public education. I’m asking for your support, as a member of the Frontline Caucus, to continue our work as a strong voice for our members and for the students and families we serve.

Seth Patterson

UTD Teaching Excellence Foundation Board Member


UTD has always supported me. In return for its support, I have done everything in my power to give back to our union and assist our members. As the Steward at Whispering Pines Elementary, members know they can count on me at any time of day or night. I fought hard and succeeded in getting money that the district owed our members, defended the contract, and organized protests.
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I'm honored that the members nominated me for Steward of the Year several times and that in 2008 UTD chose me as a finalist. As a member of the Executive Board, I am most proud of my work with the Health Insurance Subcommittee. We worked hard to find ways to minimize the impact of the regional and national healthcare crisis on members. Additionally, I worked with the Reports and Forms Control Taskforce to reduce the length and amount of paperwork required of our members. My lovely wife Michelle, amazing sons Matthew and Jackson, and I live in Homestead. I ask for your vote. I believe in our team. During these tough times, when politicians and pundits push against us, we need tough, experienced and tenacious leadership. I am honored to support those who have pushed back against a tide that tried to drown out our professional voice. They stood firm when others folded. Often, they stood alone. With your vote and support, I will work diligently on your behalf.
 

Ingrid Robledo

UTD Teaching Excellence Foundation Board Member


I am a catalyst for change with a strong commitment to continue working together to prioritize the issues that are impacting public education... ...a true believer who never gives up fighting for quality public education, an advocate of collective action, the most powerful tool when it comes to legislative advocacy.
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...a campaigner that keeps on demonstrating to legislators and elected official in positive terms that our union’s legislative program translates to active and involved constituents as well as voter clout. ...a knowledgeable and experienced media spokesperson that has built meaningful support from parents and the broader community. ...a champion of diversity and inclusion that emphasizes the importance of parents, teachers, school support personnel and students of diverse cultures and ethnic backgrounds working together. My professional activities and background include: • Twenty-six years as active member of UTD • Seventeen year as energetic building steward: member recruitment, mobilization and representation, lobbying and internal organizing • Dynamic vice-president at-large and executive board Member: actively involved and strong advocate for all constituency groups: Teachers, Paraprofessional and School Support Personnel. • Advocate for diversity as FEA Governance Board Member. • Chairperson, FEA Minority Affairs Committee. • Elected chairperson, FEA Hispanic Caucus. • NEA Hispanic Caucus, Southwest regional director. • NBCT advocate for educational reform and champion of policies for our cause. • Defender of the Class Size Reduction Amendment. • Participant in TV and radio debates with state legislators, school board members and MDCPS authorities to engage in argument by discussing opposing points to defend the rights of teachers and school support personnel, to protect public education and safeguard our students. • Accessible to all members to ensure a powerful and inclusive voice. • Guard of our rights as professionals of education and school support personnel. • Mobilize members and develop activists to lobby in legislatures and in district offices. Actions speak louder than words! I ask for your vote and support.

Sandy Simon

UTD Teaching Excellence Foundation Board Member


I have been a member of United Teachers of Dade from the very first month I was hired into a full- time position with MDCPS, 28 years ago. At first I was like many union members; I felt that it was someone else’s job to speak for me. Whether it was the steward or the bargaining agent representative, it just wasn’t my job.
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This seemed to work until I met some real union activists at the second school of my career, Richmond Heights Middle School. Learning from their example, I caught the “union bug” and from that point on, it has been my duty and privilege to serve and represent UTD members. I became involved by participating in committee meetings, volunteering on campaigns and other union activities. Later, when I took a position at North Miami Middle School, I became an elected representative, serving as steward representing my co-workers. My involvement increased when I attended UTD’s Young Leadership Training, an extremely enlightening experience. More recently I was elected to be an executive vice president at-large for the union for six years and vice president – high school for the past three years. Now, I am asking for your support to give me another three years to continue serving the membership of this great union. If I am re-elected to the position of executive vice president at-large, I will continue to advocate for our students and for school employees.

Jeimy Solis

UTD Teaching Excellence Foundation Board Member


I was raised by a single mother who immigrated from Cuba in the 1970's. My mother had an elementary education and always worked two jobs to make ends meet. I graduated Miami Springs Senior High in 1994, working as an after school leader at Springview Elementary during my junior and senior years.
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After high school, I worked full time, attending Miami Dade Community College at night. In 2002 I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice. After graduation, I worked at St. Thomas University in the Human Rights Institute, helping undocumented immigrants apply for legal rights. My experience there made me realize I wanted a career where I could educate kids and make a difference in my community. I returned to school and in 2005 earned a Master of Science in Special Education. I now have three children of my own. The oldest is a sophomore at Westland Hialeah High School, my middle son is in the French Magnet program at G.W. Carver Middle School, and my daughter is in the French Magnet Program at Sunset Elementary. I began my teaching career in 2005 at Jose Marti Middle School as a Special Education teacher. Since 2006, I've been working at South Hialeah Elementary in a Title 1 school, similar to the schools I attended as a child. Many parents have recently immigrated to this country and work extremely hard to make ends meet. I have taught all grade levels and currently teach Special Needs students. I have been the designated Building Steward since 2013 and have served on the Title I and IPEGS task forces. I am proud to serve my community and help students that are facing some of the same obstacles and financial hardships I endured as a student.

Khalifa Standford

UTD Teaching Excellence Foundation Board Member


I began my career as a teacher at Miami Edison Middle School, where I was a team leader, club sponsor and helped develop initiatives that increased test scores for our students. Next I taught at Northwestern Senior High School – my alma mater!
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I was on the leadership team and taught courses for gifted students. I was trained by the College Board to attract minority students to Advanced Placement and Honors courses. I currently teach social studies at Miami Springs Middle School, working with many ESL students. I am also a team leader at my school site. I am the school’s African American history advocate and have implemented cultural programs. We created partnerships with local business leaders who share their experiences with my students. I teach professional development courses for teachers, community support specialists and paraprofessionals. I am also a part-time reading and writing instructor at Miami-Dade Community College. To expand my own knowledge, I acquired my master’s and specialist degrees in education, and I am currently completing a doctoral degree at Nova Southeastern University. I am also a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and Delta Epsilon Iota Honor Society. I participated in the UTD Future Leaders Academy in 2009. I was also accepted into the FEA Women and Minorities Internship in 2015. Honors and professional activities include: • Nominee, Teacher of the Year • UTD Bargaining Team, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015 • ER& D Trainer (nine years) • Presenter, New Teacher Orientation • Winner, McDonald's "Teach for the Soul" Contest, 2012 • NEA Women’s Caucus, • NEA Black Caucus • Member of LCLAA (Labor Council For Latin American Advancement). I am involved with several UTD and Miami-Dade County Public Schools committees, including: • Contract Action Team • Intercultural and Human Rights Committee • Legislative Relations Committee • Professional Issues Committee 736 Subcommittee. • Immigration (AD HOC) Committee • Title 1 Joint Committee, • EESAC Joint Committee. I have always been an active member of UTD and encourage my co-workers to participate in our organization. I was elected to the UTD Executive Board in 2013. I am a delegate for AFT, NEA, FEA, and AFL-CIO. I hope you will join me in supporting the UTDFrontline Caucus. We are committed to strengthening UTD as a powerful voice for educators and public education.

Marcela Steward

UTD Teaching Excellence Foundation Board Member


As a motivated classroom teacher for ten years, I'm excited for the opportunity to serve UTD members on our union's executive board. For the past seven years, I've taught 4th grade math, science and social studies at Royal Green Elementary.
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In addition to my regular teaching duties, I've been a Patrol Sponsor, part of my school's leadership team and a member of the PBS committee. Outside of the classroom, I serve as Royal Green's Math Liaison. In 2013, I had the honor of being elected UTD Steward for her school. As passionate advocate for employee rights, I was also honored to serve as part of UTD's 2015/2016 collective bargaining team. I hold a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education, a Master's Degree in Science Education and am currently pursuing a Specialist Degree in Science Education. I am happily married with two beautiful daughters.
 
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