Episode for April 7, 2022
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Andrew Spar is president of the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest association of professional employees.
Spar was born and raised in the suburbs of New York City, attending public schools. A violinist since age 6, he earned his bachelor’s degree in music education from Ohio State University, graduating in 1994.
That same year, he went to Daytona Beach to teach at Turie T. Small Elementary School, where more than 90 percent of the students lived in poverty. The music teacher soon found his voice as an advocate and has worked ever since on behalf of public school students, schools, teachers and education staff professionals.
“I could not read when I was in first grade,” Spar recalls. “I struggled in school. But the educators in my life were empowered to make my success a priority, and that’s just what they did. I want the same world for my family and for all of Florida’s children.”
At Turie T. Small, Spar served as school-improvement chair for two years and as a union steward for seven years. He would go on to become president of his local union in May 2003 and led Volusia United Educators until he was elected FEA vice president in 2018. In September 2020, he was named FEA president after the previous president, Fedrick C. Ingram, was elected secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers.
During his 15 years leading the Volusia union, Spar negotiated 14 contracts, handled numerous grievances and arbitrations, and spent many long hours advocating for members and working families.
In 2017, he led the merger of the Volusia Teachers Organization and the Volusia Educational Support Association to create Volusia United Educators(link is external). The new union has nearly 3,800 members and represents more than 6,000 teachers, paraprofessionals and office specialists in Volusia County Schools.
Throughout his career, Spar has served on committees and task forces for the AFT. At FEA, he spent eight years on the executive cabinet. He also has served on the executive board of the Florida AFL-CIO(link is external) and was secretary-treasurer of the organization from January 2016 until September 2020.
Spar’s wife, Vernell, is also a public school music teacher. The Spars have two daughters; both girls attend public schools.
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Lauded as “hilarious, high risk, and an inspiration,” Ophira filmed her comedy special Inside Joke, when she was 8½ months pregnant. The show’s material revolves around how she told everyone that she was never going to have kids, and then unexpectedly found herself expecting at “an advanced maternal age.” Inside Joke can be found on Amazon and iTunes, along with her two other comedy albums, Bangs!and As Is.
She has appeared on Comedy Central, This Week at The Comedy Cellar, Kevin Hart’s LOL Network, HBO’s Girls, Gotham Live, The Late Late Show, The Today Show, and VH-1. The New York Times called her a skilled comedian and storyteller with “bleakly stylish” humor. She was also selected as one of New York Magazine‘s “Top 10 Comics that Funny People Find Funny,” and hailed by Forbes.com as one of the most engaging comics working today.
Ophira is a regular host and teller with The Moth and her stories have been featured on The Moth Radio Hour and in two of The Moth’s best-selling books, including the most recent New York Times Bestseller Occasional Magic: True Stories About Defying the Impossible.
Ophira’s first book, Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamyi s a comedic memoir about her experiments in the field as a single woman, traveling from futon to futon and flask-to-flask, gathering data, hoping to put it all together and build her own perfect mate.
She is also sought after as a brilliant interviewer and moderator, and has interviewed dozens of celebrities, writers, and actors.
Originally from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Ophira graduated with a Cultural Anthropology and Theater degree from McGill University. She now lives in Brooklyn, NY where she is a fixture at New York City’s comedy clubs