Tag Archives: John Kaiser

LIC organization provides free supplies to educators

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

One Long Island City group is changing the lives of educators throughout the city and teaching them that every object — whether it is a poster or an outdated cellphone case — has a second life.

The organizers behind Materials for the Arts (MFTA), located at 33-00 Northern Blvd., want to spread the word about their mission to as many teachers and other educators throughout the five boroughs as possible.

Operated by the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs, with support from the Department of Sanitation and Department of Education, MFTA offers a warehouse filled with donations from businesses big and small including Bloomingdale’s, World Vision, Saks Fifth Avenue and the Van Gogh Museum.

The site is open to educators in the New York City school system to come in, grab a shopping cart and shop — for free.

“If you can get it out the door, you can have it,” said Kwame Belle, communications coordinator for MFTA.

The 25,000-square-foot warehouse has everything from paper of all sizes to trims and fabrics, arts and crafts, toys, small props, household and small appliances, computer chairs, tables, chalkboards, computers, printers, binders, books and magazines and much more.

At the entrance of every aisle, teachers are met with displays showing ideas on how to turn items, such as a poster, into bigger projects.

Belle says that teachers can stock up for an entire school year or even come back on a “week-to-week basis.”

Along with being open weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays for teachers to raid the aisles, MFTA holds an annual Back-to-School “Shopping” Spree. On Thursday, Aug. 27, shopping will be reserved for more than 60 underperforming schools from all around the city that have been invited to come and shop for free. During the sprees, three teachers will hit the warehouse floor at time, with music in the background, and look for items. There will also be booths and workshops set up to give teachers direction and expand on what can be made with certain items.

However, MFTA doesn’t just stop at providing free stuff. The group has taken it a step further with providing professional development classes for teachers where they learn how to turn items they can find in the warehouse into engaging projects for all subjects.

“We feel the access for teachers is really important. It helps the bottom line and it helps them be more resourceful in their classroom,” said Harriet Taub, MFTA executive director. “But having the knowledge, taking our classes, that really makes them become much more confident and self-assured in how they can utilize their materials.”

Along with field trips, in-school residencies and public programs such as exhibitions and workshops open to the public, MFTA also offers DOE staff members seasonal P-Credit courses during six Saturdays throughout the year.

The next course, which will begin Sept. 19, will teach educators how to use recycled items to create musical instruments that can be used not just in art, but in math, science and literary courses.

“We connect the dots for teachers in terms of how these materials are actually essential for them to fill the Common Core requirements,” said John Kaiser, director of education at MFTA. “These are supplies not just for art, but for the art of learning, for project-based learning.”

Both Kaiser and Taub believe that the experience teachers and students have through MFTA goes beyond the warehouse and allows students, who often deal with financial hardships, to actually get a taste of the art world and access their creativity.

They added that learning to reuse common day items, which might not seem like much at first, will prepare children for the real world as they learn to be resourceful.

“By having teachers come here and taking readily available materials and bring them to their classrooms, it allows students to think about their own resources,” Taub said. “It gives you the opportunity to say, ‘I am the power behind my creativity.’”

For more information, visit materialsforthearts.org or call 718-729-3001.


St. John’s former athletic director’s career spans seven decades

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of St. John’s Communications

For the past seven decades, John “Jack” Kaiser has been the backbone of St. John’s University’s athletic department.

But his relationship to the school extends much further.

Kaiser, 86, started out as a student athlete in the 1940s on the baseball team. A former athletic director, he now serves as the athletic director emeritus.

“I’m here every day, Monday through Friday, and I love it,” Kaiser said. “It’s the delight of my life, second only to Connie, my wife.”

Kaiser was a senior and the captain of the baseball team when St. John’s was known as the Redmen in 1949. That season he led the squad to its first College World Series appearance. His talent for baseball led him down a path he had not intended to follow.

He entered St. John’s in 1944 on an academic scholarship with the intention of majoring in history and becoming a teacher. Because he loved to play sports, he played both basketball and baseball in his freshman year.

After finishing just one semester, he was drafted by the U.S. Army as World War II was winding down.

During the year-and-a-half he was in the Army, he completed training in America and traveled to Okinawa, Japan.

There, while playing a baseball game with some fellow soldiers, he broke his ankle sliding into second base.

He was sent back to the U.S. for rehab and later discharged from the Army.

“Of course it hurt,” Kaiser joked, but “it was better than being hit by a cannonball.”

He reentered St. John’s and finished his degree in three years, graduating in 1949.

He wanted to play baseball in the major leagues, but was not immediately drafted. So he played for a local team for a year.

Then the Red Sox took notice of his talents and offered him a contract in 1951. He played in the team’s farm system from 1951 to 1954.

During that time, he married his first wife, Faye, and had his first daughter. When he realized he could not make it to the big leagues, he decided to look for a more stable job to provide for his family.

“There was Ted Williams in left field, Dom DiMaggio in center and Jackie Jensen in right,” Kaiser said, naming three franchise Red Sox players at the time. “So I said I better get another job. I would have been playing in the minor leagues forever.”

In 1953, he started coaching freshman basketball at St. John’s. Three years later, he became head coach of the baseball team, getting them to the College World Series three times — in 1960, 1966 and 1968.

“I had very, very good people on my team — not only baseball players, but people,” Kaiser said.

After compiling a 367-133 record as the head baseball coach, Kaiser became the school’s athletic director in 1973.

But one of his greatest accomplishments came about six years later.

In 1978, Kaiser met with three other athletic directors of top college basketball schools — Dave Gavitt of Providence College, Jake Crouthamel of Syracuse University and Frank Rienzo of Georgetown University — to talk about forming the Big East Conference. A year later, the conference was realized. Decades later, it would be known as the strongest college basketball league in the country by many sports enthusiasts.

Kaiser was upset when big-money college football contracts threatened to lure schools away from the league and break up the Big East earlier this year. St. John’s and six other Catholic schools came together and saved the conference by redesigning the league.

“I think the new outfit is going to be good,” Kaiser said of the new Big East Conference. “They are going to be competitive, both athletic and academically. And nothing will distract them. It’s basketball-oriented, as it started out to be.”

After seeing the school through as athletic director for 22 years, Kaiser was named athletic director emeritus.

Nowadays he reaches out to alumni and recruits them to events. He also does fundraising and assists current student athletes with internships and job opportunities through the connections he has made over the years.

Kaiser has watched as St. John’s expanded from a building in Brooklyn to an international institution with a sprawling main campus that has a church, tennis courts, baseball and soccer fields and thousands of students.

He said he enjoys his current role because he feels he can make an impact in the lives of student athletes.

“I get to meet the student athletes, not just watch their games,” Kaiser said. “I feel I can be a positive image to help young people, not only to be better in their sport.”

Jack Kaiser, right, when he was named head coach of the St. John’s baseball team in 1956.