Thomas Michalek

President


Growing up in western New York I was not what you considered a model student. By the time I reached high school I had attended 2 elementary schools, a junior high and then St. Francis high school in Athol Springs. I graduated with honors after having turned my life around, I credit this change to my teachers who modeled perseverance. My public and private experience would carry over professionally when I began my career as an Elementary educator at St. James in Depew. Living in Albany since 1997 and teaching public education at Bethlehem, I now feel I have a unique perspective from both sides of the desk. Additionally, teaching in both Western NY and the Capital District has given me a different point of view in my professional experiences as well. Other qualifications worth noting include NYS certifications in Social Studies 7-12, English 7-12, Elementary Pre-K-12, Special education, Superintendent Administration, and COMPTIA computer credentials in A+ and Network +. These credentials, as well as my 26 years experience in the classroom, continue to prepare me professionally to help guide successful students. Taking on leadership roles in the Boy Scouts, serving as a union building representative, and technology coach for Bethlehem have reinforce my drive with helping others in my community.


Bryan Whitley-Grassi

President-Elect


I live in Buffalo, NY and work for Buffalo Public Schools. I am the previous Vice-President of the Board of Directors for NYSCSS. In 2013, I came to my first NYSCSS convention seeking a better understanding of social studies, more effective teaching strategies, and opportunities for professional growth. I have found those and so much more in taking part in the annual convention, summer institutes, and by connecting with my local council members. I currently serve in a leadership role at the Niagara Frontier CSS and have taken part in the NCSS Summer Leadership Collaborative and am a proposal reviewer for the national conference. I’ve gained skills, information, colleagues, friends, and opportunities for growth within my classroom and beyond since becoming involved with the NYSCSS. I hope to bring my ideas and perspectives as a former nonprofit executive director to the leadership of the organization to enhance its work, inform decision-making, and serve fellow teachers across the state in stewarding the mission and vision of the organization. My background in public policy, along with nearly twenty years in nonprofit management and leadership, and grassroots advocacy at local, state, and national levels related to issues of social justice prepared me to take part in the council's work to protect the academic rights of the profession and help articulate the diverse views on issues of interest and concern to social studies educators across New York. We are at an exciting time in social studies education where there is movement towards growth and opportunities for educational shifts that places increased value of the inherent skills within the discipline. I am honored to participate in the leadership of this prestigious organization and represent social studies educators, administrators, and students throughout New York.


Allison Weller

Vice-President


Deeply passionate about the instruction of social studies in K-12 schools, Allison has dedicated both her professional career and academic pursuits to furthering history education and promoting intercultural tolerance and understanding among both students and educators.  As a veteran teacher in the Copiague Public School District, Allison has taught all levels of the New York State social studies curriculum. Currently, Allison teaches the Advanced Placement U.S. History and Advanced Placement Psychology courses, and has recently created and implemented a Facing History and Ourselves course elective.  Outside of the classroom, Allison serves as her district’s New Teacher Mentor Coordinator and is an advisor to the National Honor Society and the Global Ambassadors Club. An active member of numerous professional organizations, Allison has presented multiple sessions at the annual conferences of the New York State Council for the Social Studies, the National Council for History Education, and the National Council for Social Studies.  Over the course of her career, Allison has participated in many professional development programs and has been the recipient of numerous awards and travel grants including the Goethe Transatlantic Outreach Program Fellowship to Germany, a Fulbright-Hays Summer Seminars Abroad Fellowship to China, the Korea Society’s Fellowship for Educators, the Japan Society’s Educators Study Tour Fellowship, and an IREX Teachers For Global Classrooms Fellowship to Brazil.

Driven by her passion for human rights education, in 2017 Allison participated in the Srebrenica Summer Institute in Bosnia and in 2018 travelled to Aushwitz with a Holocaust survivor through the generous funding of the CANDLES Holocaust Museum Teacher Fellowship.  Most recently, Allison received a Qatar Foundation Professional Development Grant to travel to Jordan in the Spring of 2019 and was selected to participate in the National World War II Museum’s Summer Institute for Teachers. An active member of the NYSCSS Human Rights Committee, Allison continues to create and present professional development workshops pertaining to global human rights issues for both local and national conferences. In addition, Allison is currently earning her Ph.D. in Social Studies Education at Teachers College, Columbia University and serves as an Adjunct Instructor at both Teachers College and Hunter College in New York City where she instructs courses in Social Studies Education and Curriculum and Instruction.


Timothy Potts

Treasurer

Tim Potts graduated from the State University of New York at Cortland with a BA in Secondary Social Studies. He also holds an MS Degree in Social Studies from the State University of New York at New Paltz. For 29 years, Tim has taught 6th and 7th grade social studies at the Robert J. Kaiser Middle School (Monticello Central School District) and is the Department Instructional Lead. Tim has been a member of the council for over 25 years and is a former Middle School and Curriculum & Assessment Chair & Co-Chair. In 2005, he was awarded the NYSCSS Middle School Teacher Award. He, is a Past President (2012-13) of the Council and was the founding President of the Sullivan County Council for Social Studies (1990’s). During Tim's NYSCSS Presidency he co-developed the NYSCSS Task Force to address the implementation of NYSED's SS Framework with other SS leaders statewide. Since 2015, Tim has held the position of the Treasurer and has updated & introduced new fiduciary practices making the Council's finances significantly stronger. He also serves as the chair of the Sites Committee which serves to locate & develop convention & conference locations. During the March 2018 Convention, Tim was surprised & honored with the NYSCSS Distinguished Service Award for his years of service to the profession & organization. Tim was a member of the New York State Education Department’s Content Advisory Panel for Social Studies since its inception in 2011 to 2018 chairing the Curriculum & Assessment portion of the panel. Rounding out his service to his profession, Tim is also active in the leadership of the National Council for the Social Studies & was recently nominated to a three year term on the board of the National Social Studies Supervisory Association. 


Erik Olander

Secretary

Erik is currently a Social Studies teacher at Niagara Falls High School in Niagara Falls , New York. He completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science at Niagara University and a Masters Degree in Secondary Social Studies at Canisius College located in Buffalo, NY. Erik currently teaches 9th/10th grade Global Studies however has taught Government/Economics, Sociology, Psychology and AP Psychology throughout his teaching career at Niagara Falls. In addition, Erik serves as the Secondary Vice President of the local teachers’ union, Niagara Falls Teachers #801 and is the chairperson of the Niagara Falls Political Action Committee. Through his union service, he also assists on the Niagara Orleans Labor Council Political Action Committee and received the Union Champions at Work Award in 2019. Erik is also a member of the Niagara Frontier Council of Social Studies and involved in many professional development activities through the council. Erik credits his wife, Julie and family for supporting him in all of his dedicated union and organizational service throughout his teaching career.



Laura Mecca-Retzlaff

Past-President

Laura is currently a Special Education teacher at Susquehanna Valley High School in Conklin, New York. Laura completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science at the University at Albany, State University of New York in May of 1992. After graduation she went to work in the field of Advertising and Marketing holding various positions in New York and Binghamton, New York with Interbrand-Schechter, Fox Broadcasting, and Verizon. Laura completed her Master of Arts in Teaching, Secondary Education at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania in January 2010. Laura is professionally certified in Social Studies 7-12 and Students with Disabilities, Social Studies 7-12. She has been a Consultant Teacher for Social Studies since she began her teaching career in the 2008-2009 school year, where she co-teaches Global History and Geography I & II and teaches Global History and Geography I & II and U.S. History and Government curriculum to 12:1:1 students. Laura co-chairs the district’s Tenth Grade Team, which works with academically at-risk students to successfully complete tenth grade. Laura is the National Honor Society advisor and has served her district in the past as the Student Council advisor. Laura will also be leading a group of students and parents on an educational trip to Ireland and the United Kingdom during the summer of 2018. Laura participates in a Social Studies Community of Practice for teachers of ninth and tenth grade in the Broome-Tioga BOCES region. Laura has also served the New York State Council for the Social Studies as the President-Elect and has served as the Vice-President and on the Curriculum and Assessment Task Force. She has also been a past presenter at the Annual Conference. Laura resides in Binghamton, New York with her husband Michael and their children Jackson and Katerina.

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