The BTU Responds to the Unz Initiative: Final Reflections

Screenshot taken by author from the digital exhibit, “The BTU Responds: Unz Initiative to End Bilingual Education.” Article is from the February 2002 edition of the Boston Union Teacher.


Hello, I am Yasmeen Khader, a second-year graduate student studying Critical Ethnic & Community Studies. 

I wanted to focus on an exploration of ethnic studies and related subjects and topics in the Boston Union Teacher not only because it’s related to my major and area of interest, but also because I plan to pursue a career in education, and one of my main goals as an educator is to foster an inclusive classroom. I was interested to see how the BTU has historically incorporated subjects and topics of ethnic studies. 

The topic of my digital exhibit is the Unz Initiative that was passed in 2002 to end bilingual education in Massachusetts. Getting to this specific topic was kind of a long time coming. 

Exhibit Process

I started off my research by trying to plug phrases like “ethnic studies” and “culturally sustaining pedagogy” into the BTU archives, which yielded little to no relevant results. So, then I decided to search each of those keywords individually, and I got a ton of hits for the search term “culture.” I began screenshotting articles that discussed topics similar to what we now call ethnic studies and culturally sustaining pedagogy. I collected over 50 screenshots, which started to become a bit overwhelming. I worked very collaboratively with Professor Nicholas Juravich to narrow down my focus and hone in on a particular topic. 

Screenshot taken by author of an article from the January 1986 edition of the Boston Union Teacher. This article discusses what we now call “culturally sustaining pedagogies.”

Professor Juravich and I noticed a trend in the 2000s of a big push to develop “classroom and school cultures.” When we considered why there might have been such a big shift and focus on culture, we realized that legislation that was being passed at this time was seriously negatively impacting bilingual, ELL, ESL, and immigrant students. In a period when schools were opening and closing rapidly because of federal state policy incentives, building school community was a counter move to support an increasingly diverse student body. 

Screenshot taken by author of an article from the May 2010 edition of the Boston Union Teacher. This article discusses creating a a school culture that is against and diminishes bullying.

I then went back to the BTU archives, but this time I plugged in the terms “Unz” and “NCLB.” My archive for the exhibit consists mainly of screenshots of articles from the Boston Union Teacher, but I also incorporated several secondary sources such as articles and visuals. Some of my secondary sources include: video clips from a panel discussion from a campaign for high-school equity, a PBS clip on the Border Protection/Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 (or House Bill H.R. 4437, an anti-immigrant bill that passed in the house but died in the Senate), and information on the LOOK Act which replaced the Unz Initiative. 

I dedicated an entire page in the exhibit to Berta Berriz because she has been outspoken in advocating for immigrant students and language learners since the 1980s. I included an audio clip from an interview from December 2021 that she did with Professor Juravich and Betsy Drinan on her time as an educator at the Boston Teachers Union School, an article she posted in the Boston Union Teacher in 2002 on why teachers should oppose Unz, and an article she wrote for The Radical Teacher in 2006 on the effects of the Unz Initiative. 

Screenshot taken by author of an article from the October 2007 edition of the Boston Union Teacher. In this article, Berta Berriz discusses best practices for teaching immigrant students and “culturally responsive” teaching and classrooms.


In terms of the revisions to the digital exhibit, the main thing to do is add in a bit more of my own voice where there are big blocks of text from the Boston Union Teacher. Also, I need to make the timeline clearer, and let the reader know when the BTU is taking action to oppose the initiative before it passes, and then how the Union is responding after the passage. I could also possibly bring the section on Berta Berriz to the opening page of the exhibit, since she is a beloved BTU member, and her quotation is so powerful about the impact of the Unz initiative on her students. This would be a great way to highlight her voice and catch the eye of fellow BTU members. 

As far as the future of this digital exhibit, even from the beginning of my research journey, I have always thought that it would be incredibly interesting and informational to explore how the history of ethnic studies and related topics have evolved in Boston Public Schools, the Boston Teachers Union, and the Boston Union Teacher. Unfortunately, given the scope of this graduate class, I was unable to compile this timeline in one semester.

Although I was unable to compile a comprehensive timeline, I did still gather a significant amount of research materials. Some of these materials are included in my first blogpost, “Reimagining Ethnic Studies in BPS.” This blogpost is connected to my digital exhibit because it explores the prevalence of ethnic studies and culturally sustaining pedagogies that are fostered in Boston Public Schools today. While my digital exhibit focuses on how the BTU had to battle for immigrant, ESL, and ELL student rights in the 2000s, my first blogpost focuses on the ways in which BPS currently aims to foster inclusive and diverse classrooms.

My digital exhibit is also connected to several other exhibits created by my classmates. The digital exhibit entitled, “Women’s Voices” also highlights Berta Berriz’s inspirational work and the achievements of Kathy Kelley. Similarly, the digital exhibit “Kathy Kelley v. Kevin White” expands upon Kathy Kelley’s work in the BTU. The digital exhibit “Snapshot: Desegregation 1974” is connected to mine because around this time culture began to be mentioned in the Boston Union Teacher and the BTU began to focus on the diversity of students, schools, and classrooms.

Finally, my digital exhibit connects to materials that we read in our History 682 class. Concepts from Michael Frisch’s (2011) article, “From A Shared Authority to the Digital Kitchen, and Back,” are pervasive throughout my digital exhibit. For example, his assertion that we are not the sole interpreters of public history, and that oral and public histories should be as accessible as possible are core theories that drive this project and myself as a graduate student. Additionally, Frisch’s (2011) notion that listening to oral histories is just as valuable and important as reading transcriptions of oral histories is a concept that I incorporated into my digital exhibit. This concept I fundamentally agreed with as a student of CECS. I was surprised to learn that historians often favor transcriptions of oral histories over the audio itself.


Teachers against the Unified Facilities Plan: Final Reflection

The Unified Facilities Plan from the December 1979 Edition of the Boston Union Teacher.

Hello, I am a graduate student in the Public History Track of the History graduate program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. The topic chosen for a digital exhibit was the Unified Facilities Plan, an idea introduced during the then ongoing desegregation of Boston Public Schools. This topic touches on numerous aspects of the history of the Boston Teachers Union, including the unions response to desegregation, teacher seniority, affirmative action, racism within the union, the relationship between the city and the union, the relationships between teachers and students, and other aspects of the relationship between the union, the city of Boston, and the courts. The exhibit seeks to display the process of the BTU in disputing the necessity of school closures with the city, and the relationship between the union and the city. Other aspects of the exhibit touched upon are the effects of desegregation on the teachers in the BTU and students in the Boston Public School system.

Researching this topic largely involved reading relevant articles from the Boston Union Teacher newspaper, with the earliest relevant article coming from the December, 1979 issue of the paper. Available papers were then examined chronologically for relevant articles or cartoons pertaining to the UFP, which were readily found throughout issues of the Boston Union Teacher. Selecting the issue at which to stop and end the exhibit. The Unified Facilities Plan, school closures, desegregation, and teacher layoffs would continue throughout the 1980s, but as another exhibit was examining teacher layoffs and the impact of desegregation and racism on the inability of the union to protest this, the natural end of the Unified Facilities Plan exhibit was when the question of teacher layoffs became unavoidable as an aspect of the exhibit.

When developing the exhibit, the biggest issue centered around the expansive nature of the Unified Facilities Plan, which was related to numerous other exhibits. Focusing too much on one area would have made the exhibit too repetitive and similar to others. Therefore, I decided to focus on the teachers’ reactions to the plan as show in the Boston Union Teacher, whereas other exhibits delved more deeply into other issues such as layoffs, budget reductions, and desegregation. The Unified Facilities Plan exhibit would focus on these areas, but only as they were perceived and reacted to by the union, rather than an all-encompassing view. This would make the exhibit both unique and focused when dealing with such a variable topic.

Certain challenges were presented in this attempt, as much of the teachers’ professional grievances were surrounded news of legal actions and city plans that frequently interrupted union news in single articles. Although this legal news was necessary for understanding the nature of professional grievances, it would have necessitated quotes of extreme length or rendered succinct quotes uncontextualized. I attempted to include physical images of the articles that would enable a viewer to understand the whys and wherefores of the complaints, but the physical display made this method unusable. Fortunately, some articles contained wonderful photographs which I could utilize, although they still needed explanations. Context must be provided outside of the direct quotes in a succinct manner while article images are removed and replaced with the most relevant quotes to illustrate the grievances of the union.

Photograph Taken From the Special April-May, 1981 Edition of the Boston Union Teacher.

Along with the redesign of the articles and quotes for the exhibit, a deeper look into the Unified Facilities Plan, its purpose, intent, and how it was to be carried out is a clear necessity of the exhibit. A deeper look into accusations of the Boston Teachers Union of corruption regarding real estate taxes and investments would also be an area to further explore, as it connects to other budgetary concerns related to Proposition 2.5.

Any further ideas that could be explored in this exhibit have largely been explored in other exhibits, specifically those exhibits dealing with desegregation, the 1981 teacher layoffs, and disputes between the BTU and City of Boston regarding the budget and affirmative action. Although these are important topics to understand, both on their own and as context for the Unified Facilities Plan, they are best left as their own exhibits that are already linked to the UFP exhibit. However, if the time period was to be extended, 21st Century issues within the Boston Public School system could be related or directly connected to the UFP or precedents set by it. Unfortunately, this seems a massive deviation from the rest of the exhibit and connected exhibits which focus primarily on the 1970s and 1980s.

These connections to other exhibits are both expanding and limiting. As seen, they force the UFP exhibit to exist in a narrow area and to avoid delving deeply into some issues lest it become a repetition of already existing works. Instead, direct links to those other exhibits are provided in order to give the viewer a deeper understanding of the issues at play. This narrow area of focus does, however, enable a deeper look into the perspective of the Boston Teachers Union when compared to other exhibits, which took broader approaches. This exhibit is essentially a trade-off of broader understanding of an entire topic for deeper understanding of a small portion of a single topic. The topic of this exhibit, the Unified Facilities Plan, although ended, still has relevance to schools throughout the country today. The intended goal of the UFP when it was conceived was to reduce the expenses of the city by reducing the number of schools and therefore associated staff such as teachers, janitors, nurses, and others. Education is often on the chopping block whenever fiscal needs are considered, and the Unified Facilities Plan, by another name, returns to menace schools again. The response of the BTU, and its minor successes in delaying the plan but ultimate failure to stop it through a lack of solidarity due to the ongoing desegregation and the effect on racial attitudes in the BTU also provide meaning for the BTU today. By failing to come together due to racial prejudice, the BTU and Boston Public Schools endured more at the hands of the UFP than was likely necessary.


Standing in Solidarity: A Final Reflection

BTU Standing in Solidarity is a project inspired by many factors, a few being coincidence. This past year I worked in the University Archives and Special Collections (UASC) while also in Digital Public History. While working in UASC I was inventorying Tess Ewing’s collection which had recently come to UMass Boston. While inventorying it I noticed that it related to what we were talking about in Digital Public History about the Boston Teachers Union (BTU). And then I hit the jackpot, Newsletters from the School Bus Drivers Union, Hazard Lights from 1979-1982 which cover the formation of the Union through the strike. And in those newsletters I found just how often the Boston Teachers Union showed up.

            I absolutely loved how these collections interacted and seeing the solidarity between these two unions that were closely aligned. Through a virtual visit with the editors of the Boston Union Teacher I learned about how the BTU is presently supporting other unions, sending food to the Nurses Union, etc. And when perusing the Boston Union Teacher I continued to see the BTU show up for other Unions again and again, either going to support their picket lines, sending money, or regularly publishing ‘Do Not Buy’ lists. Seeing the support in the present and in the past, it made me want to highlight all of the ways that the BTU has continued to show up for other Unions over their long and varied history.

            For the digital exhibit I chose to focus on four big strikes in the 1970s to the early 1980s. This decade was one of militant action on the parts of Unions. The BTU even went on strike themselves during this time. And several other Unions nationwide also advocated for change at this time. The BTU paid attention to these nationwide issues, which is why I focused on the United Farmworkers Gallo Grape Boycott and the J.P. Stevens Boycott. Both of these were not local but that did not deter BTU members from supporting these issue. And after looking at these nationwide issues I also wanted to look at more local ones, like the General Electric Strike, which happened just a few hours from Boston. But most notably the School Bus Driver Strike, which affected the everyday lives of the BTU members. And the strike that they were able to support more directly, actually showing up on their picket lines.

Image of people holding signs that say "Drivers on Strike" in front of a bus
Image of people on the picket line from the November 1980 issue of the Boston Teachers Union

            To do the research, finding these moments of solidarity, mostly consisted of combing through each issue of the Boston Union Teacher and taking copious notes. While I loved finding these moments of solidarity, I also loved to see what was going on at the time as well. Alongside the militant union action was also the fight for Teacher Aids to enter the union, win a better contract, and for school nurses to advocate for better working conditions.

            My favorite resource to use was from Tess Ewing’s collection. Digging through her papers showed a whole other fight, closely aligned with the BTU, advocating for student safety and fair conditions. The Hazard Lights newsletter also shows just how close-knit the School Bus Union is and how hard they worked. Having all of these paper resources to work with influenced the layout of my digital exhibit greatly, knowing that I would not be working with multi-media sources. It led to me incorporate different aspects of these texts, from linking, to screenshots, to putting the entire document on the page.

            Overall, this exhibit is meant to highlight the ways that Unions can come together to support one another, but also show the national reach of solidarity. Regardless of how far away, it is possible to continue supporting these strikes, boycotts, and more. And there are many more ways to explore how the BTU continues to stand in solidarity today, if there were much more time this exhibit could run from 1970 all the way through the present, looking at what it looks like to stand in solidarity at different times. On a smaller scale this exhibit is also meant to show that despite the many missteps of the BTU in the past, they are still consistent in standing in solidarity.


A Thousand Threads: Final Reflection

It was the third week of our Digital Public History class, and we were finally going into the archives. We had already dipped our toes into a wealth of information about the current best practices in Digital Humanities exhibits and archives, and we had also spent time learning about this semester’s project: a deep dive into the newly-digitized archives of the newspapers of the Boston Teacher’s Union. We had read versions of the Boston Union Teacher newspaper online, but today we were going to be able to open the boxes, to hold and touch and read through the original documents.

After an introduction by one of the UMass Boston librarians, we were set free, in small groups, to look through the boxes of documents. I remember the stress of carefully lifting the fragile pages, how carefully we moved them, making sure to put things back in the same order they had come from in the dozens of manila folders. I remember, also, the excitement of seeing the names and photos of people who were already becoming familiar to us from our research into the history of the Boston Teacher’s Union.

Turning the pages, we all saw lots of interesting ideas for topics!
Some initial ideas included:

Advertisement for tires, Nov. 1969 issue.
  • Advertising – I was curious about which businesses chose to advertise in the Boston Union Teacher, and why, and what their relationship was to the union and union membership.
  • Creative writing & teachers’ poetry – Many poems have been included in the paper over the years, and they provide an interesting pathway for reflecting on the experience of being an educator.
  • Discussions of teacher’s practice – Teachers talking about teaching, and examples of teachers sharing best practices in their classroom over time.
  • Ethnic Studies Program – Stories in the newspaper could help trace the evolution and earlier iterations of the push for a more inclusive curriculum.
  • Leisure – There were ads for Candlepin Bowling outings, Barbeques, and other social get-togethers for teachers. How important were these, who participated, and do events like this still happen?
Advertisement for Candlepin Bowling League, Sept. 2009 issue.
  • Women’s Rights – There were several articles in 1974-5 about a “Women’s Conference” and women’s rights in general. It could be interesting to think about how the Women’s Liberation movement affected Boston’s teachers.
  • Proposition 2 ½ – It could be important to explore the impact of this pivotal property tax bill on the public schools in Massachusetts, and the union’s response.
“Digital vs. Digitized Video” article, Nov. 1998 issue.
  • Evolution of Technology – There was an article in the November 1998 issue by Nancy Jones called “Digital vs. Digitized Video,” which included this excellent topic sentence: “There are numerous moving picture formats in existence today that are called ‘digital video.’” It really made me think about all the different technologies educators have had to adapt to over the years, and how each new leap forward means yet another learning curve to conquer in the classroom.
  • Northern Ireland – I found a fascinating editorial in the September 1969 issue comparing “the civil rights movement of the Catholic minority” in Northern Ireland to the Civil Rights movement in the Southern US.
  • Vacations There were numerous ads for “Teacher’s get-aways” and discount tickets for cruises to Cancun and other places. How many teachers went on these types of vacations? Again, what was the relationship between the advertisers and the union?

Many students were drawn to some of the more contentious times in the union’s history, including the response to Judge Garrity’s desegregation orders in the 1970s, and the union’s response to the teacher layoffs in 1981. I ended up doing my deeper dive exhibit on this latter topic, with help from BTU organizer Ari Branz, building on research they had done in the Fall of 2021. It was particularly powerful to get to work with the oral histories collected from BTU members, and to hear the emotion in their voices as they talked about events that had happened over 40 years ago. It was a vivid reminder of the ways in which what has happened to us becomes a part of who we are, and we each use the stories of the past to make sense of the present.

I wished I had time to pursue all of these different threads, and dig deeper into each of the topics. Over the course of the class, however, almost all of these topics got picked up and investigated by at least one of the other students. So, even though I didn’t have time as an individual to research all of those topics, as a class, we did a pretty good job of covering as much as we could. The BTU archives are such an incredible source of information, particularly around Boston history, labor history, the history of the Boston public schools, and of the union itself. I know there is much, much more to explore.


Library Research Guide: A Final Reflection

Hello! My name is Kayla Allen and I am a second-year history graduate student studying archival studies and public history at UMass Boston. I took Nick Juravich’s course, HIST 682: Topics in American History, Digital Public History: Teacher Organizing in Boston, as a way to expand upon my understanding of public history work and learn more about the ways that public historians are connecting with audiences through digital means. I was also intrigued by the topic of teacher organizing in Boston, as I had worked in the education field for years myself and was a member of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association–the teachers’ union in Milwaukee, Wisconsin–when I worked as a paraprofessional in a Milwaukee public high school.

When faced with the question of what I might want to make an exhibit on, I felt unsure. I had been doing a lot of historical interpretation in previous coursework, and I was feeling a bit like I wanted to try something new and different. When Professor Juravich gave us the option to create a research guide (or LibGuide) for the collection, I felt that was a perfect opportunity to not only gain new experience but also to learn more about what I might do as an archivist in the future.

LibGuides are essentially a series of connected web pages that give information and list resources about a specific topic. For example, one of the guides we used as inspiration for our work was the guide titled “Primary Sources for Online Learning” created by Jessica Holden, reference archivist at the University Archives and Special Collections (UASC) in the Healey Library at UMass Boston. This research guide gives explanations for how to do primary source research online, provides links to possible sources, and even offers exercises in primary source research that students can do as practice.

Collage of images related to the Boston Teachers Union.
A banner we created for our “Exploring the Boston Teachers Union Collections” page, compiled from the images our classmates used to represent their exhibits.

Evan and I decided on what we were going to include in our LibGuide. We wanted to have a page dedicated to the BTU and all related collections at the UASC, one discussing the exhibit and blog-work done by ourselves and our peers in class, and one elaborating on outside sources that researchers might find helpful if they want more information on related topics. My favorite part of assembling the LibGuide was curating the images. I loved going through different sources, finding potential images for the guide (like for banners or other decoration), and then editing them to make sure they worked for the visual space. I wanted to make sure that the guide not only had engaging content but was aesthetically pleasing and interesting to look at. I wanted it to be dynamic. The image I most loved working with was Freedom School- St. Marks Social Center- Roxbury, an asset from the Northeastern University Library Beyond Busing: Boston School Desegregation Archival Resources. This photograph depicts the February 26, 1964 boycott of Boston Public Schools in protest of segregation. In the image, protestors, young and old, Black and white, gathered outside of the St. Marks Freedom School, sang, and listened to speeches. I was particularly drawn to it because of the demographics of the crowd, particularly the children. It was a significant reminder that this whole fight was for our children to get the education they deserve. I decided to incorporate this asset as the banner for our page about external collections related to the BTU and Boston Public Schools.

Photograph of a crowd of people standing outside a school.
Freedom School- St. Marks Social Center- Roxbury.” From the Northeastern University Library Beyond Busing: Boston School Desegregation Archival Resources.

One of the last things Evan and I needed to do with our research guide was present it at the launch event. Each of us chose two of the web pages to present, and we discussed the logistics of creating the guide with our audience. After presenting, we got feedback from Professor Juravich, Jessica Holden, and Jessica Colati, director of the archives program at UMB, and updated the guide based on their feedback. Mostly, we just needed to change some lettering/wording and add more information about resources that can help researchers. This guide might need to be a living document, updated by future students working on this topic. There is so much potential for the knowledge and scholarship that this resource can help build.

If you would like to check out the work we did or learn more about the issues that have plagued our country’s public school systems, please check out our LibGuide: Boston Teachers Union Collection.


Desegregation 1974: Final Reflections

Movies and television can have a profound effect on our emotions and ways of thinking. In Professor Juravich’s Digital Public History course, which I took as a final semester student finishing up my two-year Public History MA, the documentary Eyes on the Prize captured my attention completely.

A line of people, standing tall, marches forward over a hill. Several of them hold American flags.
The cover image for Eyes on the Prize. Photo courtesy GBH.

Eyes on the Prize, specifically an hour long section titled “Keys to the Kingdom,” focuses on the fight over the desegregation of Boston Public Schools in 1974-1980. Desegregation had been a long time coming in Boston, but even still, its implementation sparked anger and violence primarily on the part of white Bostonians. Even today the geographic segregation of the city into areas primarily occupied by white populations versus people of color is very stark. Boston still struggles very much with its discriminatory legacy.

I was blown away by the primary source footage of desegregation efforts in 1974 Boston shown in Eyes on the Prize. More importantly, I was astounded by the way the filmmakers allowed the footage to speak for itself. There were no talking heads, no academics – just the voices of people who lived through Boston’s desegregation of its public schools. This documentary, and the emotions it inspired in me as a student of history and a human being, was the ultimate reason I chose to focus my digital exhibit for the Boston Teachers Union collection on desegregation in 1974.

This period of history was completely out of my traditional wheelhouse. I usually study English colonial history in the eighteenth century, which meant the sources available to me for this project were much more multisensory, utilizing audio, video, and oral history interviews, than the traditional letters and diaries to which I was used to using. It was a unique challenge to learn how to incorporate and work with these new (to me, at least) sources.

A white anti-desegregation protestor charges at a Black man with a sharp flagpole.
This picture was taken in the midst of anti-desegregation riots in 1976. While two years later than the 1974 protests, this riot occurred mere blocks from where the 1974 protests took place. (Photo courtesy NPR.)

Usually in my previous work, and even in an exhibit I was building at the same time as this class, I had to struggle with not having nearly enough sources. In this project, I had far too many! It was difficult to choose between oral history interviews of BTU teachers from the time, the BTU digitization day images, and the Judge W. Arthur Garrity collections at Healey Library. Despite honing in on one specific year in BTU and desegregation history, I still found a plethora of first-person stories in UMB’s collections.

Moving forward, I plan to continue working on the project as I am able. It is important that as many voices of Black educators, parents, and students are showcased as possible – to that end, I would like to continue adding oral history interviews throughout the exhibit. The connections between “Snapshot: Desegregation 1974” and other students’ exhibits are also an area for further exploration.

Screenshot from Marielle Gutierrez’s UMass Boston Capstone Project.

Meghan Arends’ “Women & the BTU” would be an interesting place to investigate the role women played in desegregation. There are a few women in particular who became strong voices both for and against the work of desegregation efforts. Additionally, Eleanor Katari’s “Black Choices, Black Voices: Navigating the Layoffs of 1981,” as well as Matty Patten’s “The Unified Facilities Plan” both address the fallout of desegregation several years afterward.

While I am pleased with my ability to highlight one specific year in BTU history, following those narrative threads further ahead in time would help us to connect 1974 to today, and desegregation’s effects to Boston’s current conversations surrounding racism and discrimination. After all, isn’t the point of examining the past to live in a present that is better for everyone?


A LibGuide To The Boston Teachers Union: Final Reflections

Hello all! I am Evan McDonagh: a graduate student in the History M.A. program here at the University of Massachusetts Boston and an aspiring archivist. Working with the Boston Teachers Union (BTU) and its collections this spring has been an enjoyable experience, a journey fraught with discoveries and challenges. Unlike our colleagues, I and another student, Kayla Allen, approached the BTU collections from an archives and library focused direction: the creation of a research guide (also known as a LibGuide) for the BTU exhibit and materials. Whereas our fellow students created historical exhibits, Kayla and I worked to improve access to these exhibits as well as other BTU and labor-related resources. How do you improve the research and browsing flow on a website? How do you transform a large quantity of resources and information into a digestible guide? Answering these questions would be the major goal and takeaway of our work.

At heart, the guiding process behind the LibGuide was determining what materials to include. Some of these decisions proved easy, such as connections to the blog posts and exhibits made by our class and the Boston Teachers Union collection held at the Joseph P. Healey Library. However, problems arose as we expanded our scope. Should there be an introductory paragraph and page? Should we link other collections at UMass Boston outside the BTU? What about collections, exhibits, and resources from other institutions and authors? Ultimately, despite the challenges of accommodating evermore content, Kayla and I decided to pursue a more inclusive route centered around teacher unionism and Boston. These “outside” materials – my favorite examples are the Judge Garrity chamber papers and the Beyond Busing collection at Northeastern University – provide useful context for the BTU exhibits and archives.

Despite determining our content, Kayla and I still had to arrange it – an unexpectedly delicate task. As creators, we had to represent our multitude of resources comprehensively while constructing an ergonomic, visually engaging research guide. To that end, we divided the guide into four sections: “Home,” “Exploring the Boston Teachers Union Collection,” “Collections At UMass Boston,” and “External Resources.”

  • The “Home” page functions as a launch pad for researchers. A three paragraph introduction contextualizes the BTU and the digital exhibit enough for researchers to browse independently and there is contact information for the exhibit team and the UMass Boston archives.
  • “Exploring the Boston Teachers Union Collection” serves as a guide-side hub for the digital exhibit. The tab introduces students’ project blogs and the exhibits  through an interactive gallery feature.
  • “Collections at UMass Boston” links the various parts of the BTU collection at UMass Boston as well as related collections: the Garrity papers, the 1919 Boston Police Strike Project, and others.
  • “External Resources” contains a curated bibliography of further reading for researchers and links to resources about the BTU and Boston school desegregation outside UMass Boston.

Heading into the future, I see the LibGuide expanding with in two key ways. First, as the digital exhibits grow, the new opportunities for engagement should be reflected in the guide. Second, as the body of scholarship on school desegregation, teacher unionism, and the BTU becomes more diverse, I hope that the research guide becomes a vehicle for advertising these works. Any educational campaign, from labor movements to public history, depends on awareness. It is my hope that our LibGuide promotes that here.


Teachers’ Voices: Final Reflection

Written by Grace Wargovich

I am a student at UMass Boston in the Accelerated History Master’s Program.  I am finishing my final year as a senior majoring in history and minoring in secondary education.  Over the past semester, I have taught social studies at Randolph High as a student teacher.  I was initially interested in creating a project on the issues that teachers have faced over the past decades.  As I leafed through the pages of the Boston Teacher’s Union (BTU) newspaper, I considered writing about topics such as the size of classrooms or the amount of times teachers were observed by administration.  As a future educator, I had seen first-hand how difficult these problems could be for teachers. 

To learn more about these issues, explore the exhibit “Women’s Voices” by Meghan Arends.

To learn more about gains teachers made, explore the BTU Contract Timeline built by Jordan Cooper.

However, the more I researched the archives, the more interested I became in the teachers’ responses to these issues.  The teachers’ contributions to the newspaper were rich in opinions, advice, and solidarity.

Focusing on Teachers’ Voices

            Since I wanted to focus on teachers’ voices, I mostly used the Boston Teacher’s Union newspaper for my sources.  My primary goal was to broadcast the articles and pieces from teachers that might otherwise be overlooked.  After all, it was the teachers who made up the BTU, teachers who were facing the issues of the education system, and teachers who had ideas for solutions.  Initially, I planned on centering the project on letters to the editor from teachers, which was the topic I chose for my first blog post.  However, as I delved further into the BTU newspaper, there were so many pieces from teachers, such as poems and articles on teaching pedagogies, that it was necessary to broaden the scope.


Biology Class (1990-1999). Courtesy of University Archives and Special Collections, UMass Boston: Boston Teachers Union Digitizing Day (2018

For the format, I wanted the reader’s attention to be on the teachers’ voices.  The text is mostly there to summarize or draw the reader’s attention to a certain quote.  Since teachers often feel that their voices are not heard, I wanted their words to be the main focus.  For example, at the beginning of the digital exhibit, I used a picture of a teacher, Carolyn Johnson, as the primary photo for the exhibit.  The format of the exhibit would be one of my favorite parts, although it was also the most difficult aspect to achieve.  Since I was working with a variety of sources on different topics (poetry, letters to the editor, advice on stress, articles on pedagogies), I wanted to organize them in a way that would not overwhelm the reader.  This is why this project is split into four different pages that all link to each other.  Not only is this setup clearer and more organized, but it also helps to convey how teachers used their voices to address many different subjects.

Going Forward

            Teachers’ comprehensive contributions to the BTU newspaper are still relevant today.  It is surprising how applicable the teachers’ solutions and advice are to the current issues in education.  As a student teacher, I found that many of the articles even personally resonated with the work that I do (especially the articles on stress!).  It is fascinating to see how far back some of these issues go and to see how teachers responded to them at the time.  Even today, teachers are continuing to share their voices and create a sense of solidarity among teachers in the BTU.  For example, the podcast created by Paul Tritter, Teachers on Teaching Podcast, allows teachers to talk about their personal pedagogies and helps teachers to learn from one another.  I hope that in the future, this digital exhibit can grow with the addition of more sources from the BTU newspaper and with teachers’ voices from today.


BTU, Budget Battles, and Proposition 2 and 1/2

Front Page of Boston Union Teacher Newsletter November 1980 Issue The picture shows a depiction of Boston Mayor Kevin White (D) tossing peanuts to Boston school children who look up woefully at the scraps. White wears a hat of his “friends” dancing around the Parkman House, alluding to White’s notorious nepotism and corruption at the expense always of the Boston School Department. The title reads “Cooking With Kevin…Goaded Union a la White” by Kathy Kelley, BTU President.


Boston is still seeing the effects of Judge Garrity’s court-ordered busing and desegregation. Recent decisions on Affirmative Action demand that changes be made to the hiring practices in Boston Public Schools, directly conflicting with Union fights to save tenured teachers’ jobs and honor the protections that come with seniority encoded in the Union contracts. The Boston School Department has gained a reputation for being ineffective, subjecting it to heavy criticism from both City Hall and the BTU.

Reimagining Ethnic Studies in BPS

Participants in the November 16, 2018 Ethnic Studies Professional Development, offered through the BTU-BPS Teacher Leadership Grant.

Ethnic Studies has been around to some degree for decades; however, the history of Ethnic Studies in Boston Public Schools (BPS) can be difficult to trace. Due to the evolution and development of the field, as well as related fields such as Latino Studies and Black Studies, it is more apparent to see a boom specifically in Ethnic Studies among courses offered at Boston Public Schools and concerns of the Boston Teachers Union (BTU). Since 2018, which brought the inception of the first Ethnic Studies Institute and a $25,000 grant to enhance Ethnic Studies, the field has grown tremendously and gained much relevance in Boston Public Schools.