First Latina to serve in the Union’s Top Leadership.
Evelyn DeJesus, the vice president for education of the AFT’s largest local, the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, was elected unanimously today by the national union’s executive council as executive vice president; she will serve alongside President Randi Weingarten and Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson. She will finish out the remainder of Mary Cathryn Ricker’s term; earlier this year, Ricker was appointed to serve as commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education.
DeJesus was elected to the post as the union kicks off its biennial TEACH(link is external) (Together Educating America’s Children) professional learning conference in Washington, D.C., where more than 1,200 educators from across the country will gather over the next three days to highlight the union’s major initiatives, including investment in public education, taking on student debt, respecting the freedom to teach, creating safe and welcoming work environments with an eye toward building power, and safeguarding a democratic future through voting and advocacy.
In her new role, DeJesus will work with the union’s top leadership to advocate for the rights of educators, healthcare professionals and public employees across the country in their fight for a better life, a voice at work and a voice in their democracy.
“I am honored to represent the members of this union—their hopes, their aspirations and the incredible work they do every day to make people’s lives better in their communities,” DeJesus said. “I am energized and ready.”
DeJesus began her career when one of her daughters became ill during a school construction project, and she courageously exposed the toxic environment to the public. Since then, she has risen through the ranks of the UFT, first as an early childhood teacher and reading specialist, then as a school chapter leader and the UFT’s District 2 representative, to finally being elected a vice president.
DeJesus has served as an AFT vice president since July 2014. She sits on the AFT executive council, AFT Teachers program and policy council, the AFT Human, Women’s and Civil Rights Committee, and the AFT English Language Learners Cadre; she also chairs the AFT Latino Task Force, offering program and policy recommendations at the federal level. DeJesus was elected as the AFT’s national vice president for Latino advancement in 2014; in 2016, she was appointed to the advisory council of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. She is a chairperson and leading voice directing the UFT Charter High School and is a member of the UFT executive board. Most recently, she was elected to serve on the National Association of Bilingual Education’s executive regional board.
“I’ve known Evelyn since she was a chapter leader, and I remember people telling me, ‘You need to watch this woman,’ ” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Evelyn is a fighter. She is more passionate than any summer day is long. Be ready for her to call you out when you’re wrong, and be ready for her to have your back at all times. She puts her whole heart into her work—whether it’s helping ELL students or families in Puerto Rico,” Weingarten said. “Evelyn inspires me every single day. I can’t think of a leader more equipped to take on this national role. She knows in her soul what it means to fight for a better future for all of our members. Evelyn is a collaborator and a warrior, and I look forward to having her insight, her courage, her curiosity and her passion working on behalf of our 1.7 million members.