Antonia Cortese was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers in July 2008. She has served as Executive Vice President and Vice President of the AFT and an officer of the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT). She was elected NYSUT second vice president in 1973, a position she held until 1985, when she was elected first Vice President. She previously was a Vice President of NYSUT's predecessor, the New York State Teachers' Association.
Ms. Cortese oversaw NYSUT's biweekly newspaper, and was responsible for the union's wide-ranging, nationally respected Division of Research and Educational Services. She also was an elected vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, NYSUT's national parent organization, and sat on the AFT executive council. Ms. Cortese also was a Vice President of the New York State AFL-CIO.
Ms. Cortese, a graduate of Utica College of Syracuse University with a bachelor's degree in psychology, began her education career in her native Rome, N.Y., as a fourth-grade teacher and school social worker. Her teacher union involvement originated as a building representative for the Rome Teachers' Association, which she later served as secretary, vice president, and two terms as president.
Among her many professional activities, Ms. Cortese serves as vice-chair of the Learning First Alliance, a national coalition of major education organizations. She is also co-chair of the Child Labor Coalition and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. She serves on the American Bar Association's Commission on Civic Education and Separation of Powers. And she was recently elected to the board of directors of Freedom House, an independent non-governmental organization that supports the expansion of democracy and freedom around the globe.
Previously, Ms. Cortese served on the executive committee and as a member of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which develops and administers assessments leading to the certification of accomplished teachers. She has served as an appointee of the U.S. Department of Education to the National Assessment Governing Board, which is responsible for the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
She has served as a member of the executive committee and board of directors of the New York State Special Olympics. In 1990, she was honored by Utica College as an alumna of achievement in her field.