ULA Student Named MTA 2020 ESP of the Year

Sonia Fortin, a second-year Labor Center student, pursuing a master’s degree in the Union Leadership and Activism program, was recently named the 2020 Education Support Professional (ESP) of the Year by the Massachusetts Teachers Association.  

Fortin is the sole academic tutor at the Ephraim Curtis Middle School. She works in the school’s Bridges Program, which provides short-term intensive assistance to students returning to classes after an experience that has had a significant emotional impact or has presented a medical challenge, causing lost school time. The program also provides support to the affected students’ families.

Fortin has worked at Curtis for 10 years. As the driving force behind the school’s Gay Straight Alliance, Fortin saw the need for a safe place for students identifying as LGBTQ+. This led Fortin to develop and organize the school’s Safe Space Initiative, a way for students to meet with and talk to friends and feel safe from judgment. The initiative provides a room in the building “where students from all grades can go and just be,” House Administrator Bill Grubb wrote in a letter supporting Fortin’s nomination as MTA ESP of the Year.

Fortin has taken on significant roles at the local level, including serving as treasurer of the Sudbury Education Association. At the state level, Fortin is a member of the All In Member Blueprint Work Group, which is exploring how the MTA can continue to grow, stay strong and protect public education. Fortin is also a member of the ESP Standards Task Force, the MTA Resolutions Committee, the MTA LGBTQ Issues Committee, and a trainer for the MTA ESP Leadership Weekends program.

Recently, in part because of advocacy by Fortin and others, the Labor Center announced a new track of the ULA program called ULA for Educators. Typically ULA courses are offered in 10-day intensive sessions in January and July. But this new track offers educators (including education support professionals, adjuncts and higher education support staff) an opportunity to take January classes in an innovative online format and do their July coursework in residence at the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus. 

Please note that because of the pandemic the July 2020 residency will be offered online for all students. In July 2021, we plan to return to an on-campus session, while the January sessions remain online.

The MTA also recently pledged scholarship support to members seeking to earn their master’s degree in Labor Studies through the ULA for Educators program. 

The deadline for admission to the July 2020 online session is June 15, 2020; the deadline for January 2021 is October 15, 2020. For more information, please visit the ULA website or contact Cedric de Leon, Director of the Labor Center, at cedricdeleon@umass.edu.