Meet the teacher activists
Rosie Frascella grew up in a White, middle-class family in Hamilton, New Jersey, and has taught high school English and history for the past eleven years in both upper Manhattan and Brooklyn. She was trained as an English as a second language (ESL) teacher through the Peace Corps Fellows Program at Teachers College at Columbia University. Before becoming a teacher, Rosie was a labor union organizer and cut her activist teeth as a queer student activist in college. Currently, Rosie is a core leader for NYCoRE and a member of the Movement of Rank-and-File Educators (MORE), the social justice caucus of the UFT. She co-authored "The International [High School]: Arise Ye Over-tested Teachers," a chapter in More Than a Score (Haymarket Books) about a teacher-organized boycott of the New York State English Language Arts Exam in 2014.
Natalia Ortiz started teaching high school history in 2006 in Brooklyn. She wanted to be a teacher when she was in elementary school, a desire that became more politicized during her college years. A native New Yorker, her father was Puerto Rican, but Natalia was raised primarily by her mother, an immigrant from Chile. She is passionate about teaching, history, and politics and is a core leader for NYCoRE. Currently, Natalia is a doctoral candidate in urban education at the CUNY Graduate Center and is the training director for Border Crossers in New York City. Her research focuses on how teachers learn to address racism and structural oppression with a special focus on the use of applied theater and theater of the oppressed techniques.
Kari Kokka grew up in East Side San Jose, California, and went to a large Title I urban public high school. She did not think about becoming a teacher until after she realized that she did not want to be an engineer after majoring in mechanical engineering at Stanford University. She became a high school math teacher and taught for over 10 years in New York City and is a founding organizer of "Creating Balance in an Unjust World," a national conference that brings together educators, researchers, parents, activists, and students to collectively discuss social justice and math education. Kari holds a doctorate in Culture, Communities, and Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and is currently an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. Her research focuses on social justice mathematics and retention of urban STEM teachers of color. She avidly practices capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art.
Lisa, a veteran elementary school teacher in Brooklyn with 27 years of experience, retired in 2016! For her last two years working for the NYC Department of Education, she was a Pre-K Instructional Coordinator supporting teachers in public and community based Pre-K Centers. She started teaching only after her son was born and she decided not to go back to her job as an Entenmann’s delivery truck driver, a union job she had taken after leaving college because she enjoyed driving a school bus while in college and wanted to be more involved in labor rights activism. Lisa grew up in rural Maryland and then attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in the early 1970s, immersing herself in leftist politics, which exposed her to anti-war, women’s rights, gay rights, and labor activism. An active UFT chapter leader, Lisa has always been very involved in teacher activism through both union and community organizations. Currently, Lisa is enjoying her retirement!