April 7, 2016
Street Law, Inc. presented its 2016 Edward L. O'Brien Lifetime Achievement Award to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, at its annual Awards Dinner on April 27, 2016, in Washington, DC.
Street Law’s Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes and celebrates individuals who have dedicated their careers to empowering others through education about the law. Randi Weingarten is president of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers (AFT), which represents teachers; paraprofessionals and school-related personnel; higher education faculty and staff; nurses and other healthcare professionals; local, state and federal government employees; and early childhood educators. She is a former Street Law teacher who has spent her entire career championing the need to teach civics and government to American youths.
After receiving a degree from the Cardozo School of Law, Ms. Weingarten practiced law at the firm of Stroock & Stroock & Lavin from 1983 to 1986 before becoming counsel to the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) from 1986 to 1998.
Ms. Weingarten served for 12 years as president of the UFT, representing approximately 200,000 educators in the New York City public school system, as well as home child care providers and other workers in health, law, and education.
Concurrently with her tenure as UFT counsel, Ms. Weingarten spent six years teaching social studies classes at Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn. Using her skills as an experienced attorney and civic advocate, Ms. Weingarten taught a Street Law class in an effort to instill in her students a passion for U.S. law and government. The class culminated in a mock housing court, and student engagement was high. In a 2015 interview about this class, Ms. Weingarten said, “I was so excited that the kids were really prepared, had learned how to interview witnesses, how to elicit facts, how to argue the law—in other words, how to engage in project-based instruction with a real-life approach. My kids were so engaged that in some ways it was like New York City Housing Court.”
During her time at Clara Barton High School, Ms. Weingarten also taught U.S. History and Government, AP Political Science, and Law and Ethical Issues in Medicine, among other classes. She led her students to participate in the national We the People civics competition—her class won the New York state championship and placed high nationally.
In 2013, the New York Observer named Ms. Weingarten one of the most influential New Yorkers of the past 25 years, and Washington Life magazine included Weingarten on its 2013 Power 100 list of influential leaders. Ms. Weingarten has consistently used this high profile to advocate for the importance of teaching young people about law, government, and civics. She is president of the Albert Shanker Institute, an organization and think tank dedicated in part to spreading the need for civic education as “one of the primary missions of public schooling.”
(Reproduced with permission)