MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

Meet The HCTA Executive Board

Rob Kriete, President

I was born and raised in Canarsie, Brooklyn, while attending the same elementary school as my great-grandparents, grandparents, and mom, P.S. 115. I knew early on that I wanted to be a teacher after getting a summer job teaching campers how to swim. When they were successful, I found it so very rewarding. So, I found myself at U.S.F. and began my teaching career here in Hillsborough at Wilson Middle School in 1993. I come from a union family, and being a part of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association has been a big part of my career. Early on, frankly, I wanted the protection of our union. But, as I became a more seasoned educator, I saw the passionate work HCTA did locally to advocate for public education and how they represented and supported employees in so many ways, I saw beyond the protections offered members. Serving on the HCTA Board of Directors, and now as your proud president, I get to lead our efforts for better conditions of teaching and learning while advocating for the dynamic teachers and education support professionals in Hillsborough. I truly believe that together we are strong!

Johnny Green, Vice President

As a proud product of Hillsborough County Public Schools, I know first-hand the many accomplishments and growth that has taken place in our district over the years. I was born and raised in Tampa by my grandparents. My grandfather retired from the Navy and my father from the United States Air Force.

I am a proud graduate of Hillsborough High School and Hillsborough Community College and had the opportunity to attend the Historical Florida A&M University.

For over 18 years I’ve been employed with Hillsborough County Public Schools. I decided to become more involved in my community with voter registration drives, promoting community events, and youth job fairs. I have always believed that ALL employees should be treated with dignity and fairness and have significant protection no matter the position or job role. All of this led me to become more active in my union, first by joining as a member and secondly, by becoming more engaged so that I could not only make a difference but advocate for the voiceless.

I strongly believe that we all hold significant value in making our community and our public schools successful in educating all youth and advocating for all educators.

I have served on the HCTA executive board, and currently serve on the Florida Education Association (FEA) Credential & Elections Committee as Vice chair, and was chosen, to participate in NEAs ESP Leadership Institute. Now, I proudly serve as your HCTA Vice President. I am dedicated to being an advocate for our members to ensure that they receive the necessary protection and support. I am a firm believer that there is dignity in all our work. It’s not about the work that you do, but it’s about how well you do the work to further enhance public education for all students.

We are ALL stronger together.

Valerie Chuchman, Secretary-Treasurer

I want to live in a world where public schools are valued, educators are respected for their expertise, houses are self-cleaning, and great ideas formulated in the shower are not forgotten.

I spent 23 years teaching high school science and am honored to have been named Teacher of the Year while in Milwaukee (2006) and at Riverview High School (2016). I served as a building rep early in my career, but my union activism ramped up in 2011 when the governor of Wisconsin introduced union-busting legislation. Wisconsin winters were not made for protests. After six weeks in the cold and snow, I conceded that I was not genetically inclined to Midwestern winters. This was the push my wife and I needed to finally move to Tampa in the summer of 2011.

My plan to lay low in Hillsborough was thwarted in August 2015 when I was nudged into serving as the senior rep for RvHS. During that time, I focused on building a positive CTA culture, and over the last six years, our membership density grew by 30%. I am proud to call Hillsborough County my home and pleased to have served our members as an FEA, NEA, and AFT delegate, HCTA Executive Board member, and now as your secretary-treasurer.

When I’m not working to increase the power of our union, you can find me whipping up low-carb dishes, raising monarch caterpillars, attending an Indigo Girls concert, or cuddling with my cats.

Kathy Hockman, District 4 Instructional

As the daughter of two professional educators (dad was a science teacher turned principal turned superintendent and mom was an elementary teacher turned Chapter 1 Reading Specialist), I am well versed in the long hours and hard work that it takes to keep growing and learning. Being an educator is not a static profession. We do not earn our credentials and then rest on our laurels. A dedicated educator will, by their nature, continue to seek more learning. I live that in spades. I am an adventurer of our natural world, but I am also willing to venture into new content areas just for the growth of it.

I am actively involved in my community, wherever my community is. I have always been a member of my local education association because, from my parents, I learned that there is power in numbers, our voices are amplified, and the association provides a solid friend to have your back when the forces are against you. I have relied on that friend over the years and I am proud to be a member of the NEA family through the state and local affiliates.

During my 30 year teaching career, I have had the pleasure of teaching in Vermont, South Carolina, Maine, and Florida. Some things are universal throughout education systems, like our dedication to our students. Some things are unique to the state, district, or school that you work in. Those unique differences highlight why being a member of the education association can be so important. I have not been just a member of an association, I have also been the negotiations secretary, and the President-elect of my local in Maine. I have worked on committees for improving relations with administration. Since beginning to work in the Hillsborough County Public Schools, I have been a building rep to be a voice for my peers, and now, I am a member of the HCTA Executive Board.

I hope to be able to protect the rights of my co-workers and members district wide, but I also hope to help change the scenery for professional educators in the district and the state. Education is key to preparing our young people for the future and we know that what we envisioned the future to be is no longer a realistic vision. We need our students to be critical and flexible thinkers, literate across content areas, active in their communities, and prepared for making hard choices to enact the changes that will need to be made for themselves and their communities.

We need to work together to gain the support of our families, communities, and state decision-makers to raise the level of financing and infrastructure that we dedicate to the education of our children. School houses are central to their communities (even more so in a state that uses them for emergency shelters so frequently) and their upkeep needs to be a higher priority than it has been. I am passionate about righting wrongs and believe that working together is our best weapon to achieve our goals

Katherine ‘Casey’ Burdge, District 8  ESP

I have been a registered nurse for over 20 years, receiving my bachelor’s degree from Vilanova University and Master’s from Jacksonville University. I obtained my nation school nurse certification July 202. I have worked in Hillsborough since May of 2017 as a school nurse, after moving from New Hersey where I was a certified school nurse. I have been a part of the union since RNs became part of the ESP bargaining group back in 2019. I became part of the executive board in 2020 when there was an opening. I feel it is important for each part of the bargaining team to have representation, In addition to this role, I am also a member of the bargaining team.

Currently I am the President-elect for the Florida Association of School Nurses (FASN) and advocate for school nurses across the state.

Especially during these trying times, school nurses are a necessity to have in every school.

Cara Martin-Howard, District 9 ESP

I am originally from Schaumburg IL, a suburb of Chicago. I was bred union. My father was a member of the steel workers union. My aunts have been members of the Chicago teacher’s union since time began. Our family is pro-union and if you do not belong to your union it is considered a sin.

The cold winters and love brought me to Tampa. I transferred with my company. Soon I was burned out on transportation and logistics and was seeking a change. My late husband asked me what I wanted to do. The first thing that spilled out of my mouth was to be a school secretary. He said do it.

I knew nothing about the school system, so I started my first job in 2015 at Gaither High School as the student affairs secretary. I am a firm believer that if you want to learn about a new industry a good entry is working as a front desk staff person or secretary. They are the keeper of the keys and the tea. From there I have been able to move from the principal’s secretary to the testing coordinator. Now I am the Impact Lab manager at Jefferson High school.

I was a passive member of our union until Leo Haggerty our former vice president took me to the side and invited me to an ESP (Educational Support Professional) committee meeting. He offered me food, my Achilles heel. Leo fired me up with the need to make sure our support staff had a loud and proud voice. Since I have a big voice, I have been honored to serve as the senior building representative at Jefferson High School. I am also a member of the HCTA executive board. I have been appointed as vice chair to the Educational Support Professional Program and Policy Council by Florida Education Association (FEA). I have also made it a point to ensure ESPs are in spaces that normally we think we cannot be. I am on our school’s Steering Committee, Instructional Leadership Team (ILT), Student Advisory Committee (SAC), and Citizen Advisory Council (CAC).
It is important to me to make sure that all our members are supported and respected. We, as educators, have a personal stake in our students, families, communities, and schools we serve. We do this because we have been called to this work. It is more than a paycheck; it is a fervent desire and passion to educate