Thursday, April 26, 2018

John Giambalvo, Lauded for Work on Immigrant Rights, Wins Award From UFT at Social Studies Conference

By Mike Schirtzer
John Giambalvo and Mary Beth Tinker*

John Giambalvo was recognized by the Association of Social Studies Teachers UFT for his excellence in pedagogy, commitment to his students and dedication to the discipline.

This is the  second major award John has earned. Two years ago he was named Catholic Public School Educator of the year.

He was also nice enough to have me for an inter-visitation at his school where I was lucky enough to observe him teach and speak to students on his student government. His students were amazing and they gave me ideas for my senior council that I coordinate. I spoke glowingly of John’s work as Coordinator of Student Activities.

I learned of John when we both became interested in union activism. We both see the UFT as the most important organization in defending NYC’s public schools. We have fought for school integration, immigrant’s rights, a good contract for UFT members, and marched along side each other for women’s rights and public education.

We joined with a few groups to demand the DOE have an “immigrant liaison” to help students in public schools. When that didn’t go through, we attended a CUNY workshop on immigrant’s rights. He organized a conference in his school of mostly Latino, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian students on how they can protect themselves.

I saw first-hand how John’s students adore him. His COSA office was packed with kids wall to wall with students from the student government and national honors society which John also runs, and kids just looking for a place to feel at home during their lunch.

They were discussing student activities, politics, their favorite teachers, and of course making fun of Mr. Giambalvo while trying to figure out why I chose to come visit another school rather than just skip it and stay home (I told them I had a boss and like having a roof over my head).

I’m not an administrator. I don’t pretend to understand or like the Danielson domains. Here’s what I do know: the students in John’s class had smiles on their faces, they were laughing, they were engaged, it was really intellectual students having high level discussions in an AP class. His SGO and NHS were kids mostly of immigrant backgrounds, male and female that were empowered to make decisions, plan events, and work at the school store. They have a plane to have their voices heard, they are given agency as immigrant teens of color, in s society that has become increasingly tolerant of bigotry and xenophobia.

John deserves every reward he has earned. The UFT has a devoted member that will fight for his union with everything he has. Our schools and the kids we serve have a teacher that is as dedicated and smart as they come. Most importantly he had the unwavering love and support of his wife, daughter and friends.

Mary Beth Tinker is an American free speech activist known for her role in the 1969 Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District Supreme Court case, which ruled that Warren Harding Junior High School could not punish her for wearing a black armband in school in support of a truce in the Vietnam War. The case set a precedent for student speech in schools...


  1. Wow!!! This is the absolute most fantastic gesture any friend has made since I was in grad school!! I don't know how you guys kept this from me unril you posted but, thanks! It means a lot coming from you Mike and you Norm AND it was an awesome surprise to read this after work day. I'm totally lucky to know the both of you and owe you both a beer! Thanks!

  2. Congratulations John! You are an inspiring educator!


Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Comment moderation is on, so if your comment does not appear it is because I have not been at my computer (I do not do cell phone moderating). Or because your comment is irrelevant or idiotic.