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How to track down a teacher
August 19, 2013 7:44 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to track down a teacher through the NYC public school system?

I'm working on a project, and I need to track down a teacher. This person was an elementary school on the Upper West Side in the 1970s. We have a last name and a specific school. The NYC public school system does not give out employment information for teachers, and we haven't been able to reach the school. We haven't been able to find yearbooks from the right year for that school.

Are there resources that can help us track this person down?

(Ultimately we are looking for a photo of this person, and some confirmation of the person's identity.)
posted by Sara C. to Education (5 answers total)
 
How common is the last name? Back then most people were listed in the phone book, and it should be trivial, if you are in NYC, to access NYC phone books for those years. If it was a last name like Wcześniak or something, it should be easy.
posted by cairdeas at 8:07 PM on August 19, 2013


Classmates.com includes elementary schools. If your teacher's school is listed, you could possibly contact students from that era through the site.
posted by Knappster at 8:42 PM on August 19, 2013


I know this is way too obvious, but have you checked Facebook? I recently found one of my NYC teachers from the 80's on there.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:20 PM on August 19, 2013


Is this for something benevolent, or are you trying to pull some sort of expose? If the former, you have a lot of potential natural allies, if the latter, it's a little harder.
posted by corb at 4:34 AM on August 20, 2013


Yes, it's possible. It depends how much time and effort you're willing to put in, and also maybe how much social engineering you're willing to do. However, almost every solution I can suggest would involve legwork. If I'm understanding your question, you are looking for a resource, which is different. (And understandable, if you're a long distance away.)

With that in mind, I'd mention a couple different ideas. The first is befriending someone with access to the information—eg, someone in the school system or the teachers' union—and asking for a favor: you forward a stamped, unsealed letter to them, and they forward it to the teacher's last known address. I've done this successfully.

There's also Craigslist. In cities, lots of people read it. It has discussion forums and a "Missed Connections" section, which isn't intended for this sort of thing but it's used in all sorts of ways. Depending on your purpose, how much information you have, and your timeframe, it might be worth running an ad for a few months. Put everything you know into the text, and maybe somebody sees it who is related to somebody else who...etc.

Spending money on the search wouldn't be my first resort, but again, depending on your purpose that might be something to consider. Low-tier private investigators solicit business via Craigslist, and they tend to be relatively cheap. You might also find a New York researcher, library student, etc who's looking for odd jobs for extra cash.

And this would probably be my last resort, and in many cases I wouldn't consider doing it but again, I don't know why you need this information so I'll throw it out there: elementary schools tend to be very territorial, and fliers work. Theoretically, if you found a student via Craigslist willing to flier the neighborhood for fifty bucks, you might get a hit.

If it were me, I'd start by unpacking the phrase, "we haven't been able to reach the school." I'm not sure what that means. Maybe you're on a time crunch and nobody is answering the phone this week, or maybe the school no longer exists and you're having trouble identifying former employees. Those are problems with different approaches, obviously.

I hope something in there is helpful. Good luck.
posted by cribcage at 7:42 AM on August 20, 2013


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