CEA Advisor_December 2022-January 2023 issue_web
CEA December 2022 – January 2023 • Volume 65, Number 3 • Publ ished by the Connecticut Education Association • cea.org
BECAUSE OF A TEACHER EVERY PROFESSION IS POSSIBLE
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2 CEA ADVISOR DECEMBER 2022 – JANUARY 2023
Leading: Our Perspective
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... Not an entirely original thought, but it does seem to ring true right now in education. As Connecticut and the rest of the country suffer from a shortage of educators, you
• CEA’s award-winning Communications Department continues to shine a bright light on you and the important work you do in a campaign that launched this fall and will continue in the new year. Because of a Teacher, Every Profession is Possible
told us that enough is enough. At an alarming rate (74 % of the profession), Connecticut teachers are looking to retire early or call it quits. We can all agree that this is a watershed moment. At a recent news conference at the Legislative Office Building covered by all local media outlets, CEA sounded the alarm about the crisis facing our schools. (See story, page 7.) While that captured public attention and brought lawmakers to the table, we need to stay vocal and not let our issues fade from the public consciousness or discourse at the Capitol this legislative session. Teaching is harder than ever. We are micromanaged, overworked, dissatisfied with working conditions, facing high levels of frustration and burnout, and ignored or disrespected. For many teachers, the personal rewards no longer outweigh the challenges. It certainly feels like the worst of times. But together we can make change happen, and educators are already experiencing some major victories. • A bipartisan group of legislators attended our news conference right before Thanksgiving to support us and help find solutions to the growing teacher shortage. They recognize that giving thanks to teachers by respecting them as professionals, providing competitive salaries commensurate with those of other professions, and lifting the heavy burdens on talented workforce and helping us grow. • Teacher contract settlements across the state are at the highest levels in years. Districts are recognizing that they can no longer take educators for granted and must invest to get the best. • Administrators witnessing the detrimental impact of wage stagnation and salary freezes on teachers and students in their districts are realizing they must do more to make the profession attractive. • Districts such as Stonington are standing up, speaking out, and supporting educators and students. When small factions attacked the LGBTQ+ community in town, Stonington administrators worked with the union to support and uplift educators, standing with them to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion and provide safe, welcoming teaching and learning environments. Their decisive actions showed respect for teachers and students and had a powerful impact on the school community. Read the story on page 13. • We are making headway on reducing the role of standardized tests that limit students and restrict their learning. At a CEA conference, leaders across the state were energized about undoing the damage inflicted by decades of standardized testing and moving toward alternate approaches to measuring student growth. See stories, pages 8-9. teachers goes a long way toward retaining our
showcases how teachers are a major influence on the lives and careers of Connecticut residents. People from a variety of occupations are featured in the ad, including several in the fields of medicine, business, law, government,
Kate Dias, CEA President
finance, education, and the arts, and each tells the story of what they achieved because of a teacher. See story, pages 10-11. These are just a few examples of how we are succeeding and talking about all the right things— the best of times. So, what happens next? We continue our good work. We continue to stand up and speak out. We continue to do what we know is right. We continue to do what we always do—fight for our students and our profession. We did it on Election Day, when more than 80 % of our Honor Roll candidates—strong education champions from both sides of the aisle—were elected or re-elected to their seats. We worked hard to support them, and now we will ask them to work hard for education. We are proud to send three of our own members to the State House of Representatives, and American Federation of Teachers Connecticut President Jan Hochadel will join the State Senate. All of these colleagues of yours understand the challenges facing our profession and will be strong allies for us as we move our top priorities through the next legislative session. See story, page 6. The session convenes on January 4, and if we schools, we will need you to stay connected to the lawmakers you voted into office. When they hear firsthand your stories of crowded classrooms, sick schools, stressed students, and the exodus of new and experienced educators who feel undervalued and overworked, they will feel the pressure to act. • Call on your elected officials and ask them to support CEA-proposed legislation that protects play as an essential part of the learning experience. • Ask them to support changes to the teacher evaluation system that make it meaningful. • Ask them to acknowledge educators’ worth with competitive salaries, pandemic pension credit, and rewards for those who work in financially distressed communities. • Ask them to support you, our teachers, who make every profession possible. Outside the state legislature, we must keep pushing for standardized testing waivers to reduce that burden on our students and our schools. Our work continues with the federal delegation to pressure Congress to repeal the Social Security penalty educators experience. And our efforts at the local level to improve working conditions and reduce non-instructional duties are ongoing. We have the power to make change happen; that is the power of the union. We are stronger together, and together we can do anything. So let’s get on with the best of times. December 6, 2022 are to take home the victories we need for our profession and our
Joslyn DeLancey, CEA Vice President
We have the power to make change happen; that is the power of the union.
Donald E. Williams Jr. CEA Executive Director
CEA GOVERNANCE Kate Dias • President Joslyn DeLancey • Vice President Tara Flaherty • Secretary
Stephanie Wanzer • Treasurer
Tanya Kores • NEA Director Katy Gale • NEA Director
CEA ADVISOR STAFF Nancy Andrews • Communications Director Lesia Day • Managing Editor Laurel Killough • New Media Coordinator Stephanie Boccuzzi • Graphic Designer Eric Ahrens • Web Designer and Developer Marcus Patterson • Administrative Assistant
December 2022 – January 2023 Volume 65, Number 3 Published by Connecticut Education Association 1-800-842-4316 • 860-525-5641 cea.org
The CEA Advisor is mailed to all CEA members. Advertising in the CEA Advisor is screened, but the publishing of any advertisement does not imply CEA endorsement of the product, service, or views expressed. CEA Advisor USPS 0129-220 (ISSN 0007-8050) is published in August, October/November, December/ January, February/March, April, May/June, and summer by the Connecticut Education Association, Capitol Place, Suite 500, 21 Oak Street, Hartford, CT 06106-8001, 860-525-5641. Periodicals postage paid at Hartford, Connecticut. Postmaster: Send address changes to CEA Advisor , Connecticut Education Association, Capitol Place, Suite 500, 21 Oak Street, Hartford, CT 06106-8001.
CEA County Forums are being restructured in a way that brings more of us together and makes joining the conversation easier. Introducing CountyPalooza—a statewide, virtual gathering of CEA members on Monday, January 23, that allows all educators to be in the room where it happens. Visit cea.org/cea-county-forums and watch your inbox for details and registration. BE A PART OF THE COUNTYPALOOZA
CONNECT WITH CEA
@cea_teachers flickr.com/ photos/ceapics
Production date: 12-12-2022
DECEMBER 2022 – JANUARY 2023 CEA ADVISOR 3
IN THIS ISSUE
Each year, CEA’s Public Relations Committee proudly recognizes and supports outstanding teaching professionals and advocates, association websites and newsletters, new public relations projects, best media coverage, and more. Think about the work you’ve done. Consider that colleague who is indispensable to your school or your local union. Nominate yourself, your local association, a fellow teacher, or a member of your community for one of these grants or awards: SPOTLIGHT ON YOU, YOUR COLLEAGUES, AND YOUR LOCAL ASSOCIATION
Connecticut’s Teacher of the Year Council honors exemplars in public education. Hear what they have to say about the work they do—its challenges, rewards, and ripple effects. REPRESENTING With a major assist from CEA members who got out the vote, education allies are ready to take their seats in Congress and at the State Capitol to represent teachers’ priorities. ADVOCATING Troubling findings from a new CEA survey, showing that three out of four educators are considering leaving the profession, underscore that the teacher shortage is at a crisis level. See the results and what CEA is doing to turn the tide. What might education look like if standardized tests weren’t a major part of the equation? That was the question experts took up at a CEA conference that looked at learning reimagined. We all know the saying: Teaching is the profession that makes all professions possible. CEA’s new awareness campaign brings that message to life with real stories of Connecticut residents who say they owe their success to a teacher. Educators who promote social justice deserve to be recognized for their efforts. Nominate yourself or a colleague for one of CEA’s Human and Civil Rights Awards. One school district’s coordinated effort to ensure a safe, welcoming environment for all students serves as a model for other districts facing challenges to diversity and inclusion. See the newest faces at CEA—as well as familiar ones in new roles—all working to provide strong advocacy for Connecticut’s teachers. With teacher shortages impacting both educators and students, it’s more important than ever to strengthen the pipeline of new teachers—and that’s exactly what CEA’s Aspiring Educators program is doing. Retired educators are stepping up efforts to fix Social Security and ensure that all teachers’ quality of life is maintained throughout retirement. Check out highlights of CEA’s Teacher Tailgate at UConn’s homecoming game, where the Huskies nabbed a historic win. The Connecticut Sun put on a free basketball clinic for one lucky CEA member and her students in Bridgeport this fall. It was such a success that they’re offering a new clinic in a new school district every month. Why not make it yours? CEA Treasurer Stephanie Wanzer gives an update on CEA’s fiscal health.
• ABCD Award (Above and Beyond the Call of Duty) • CEA Clifford Silvers Education Advocacy Award • CEA Newsletter/Website Competition • CEA Salutes Award • Charles B. Kelly Local Media Award • Thomas P. Mondani CEA Friend of Education Award • Norman E. DeLisle Public Relations Grant The deadline for entries is 5 p.m. on Friday, February 24, 2023. Scan for more information and to enter.
MANCHESTER MATH TEACHER RECEIVES NATIONAL HONOR Award for Teaching Excellence goes to James Tierinni
Manchester math teacher James Tierinni, Jr., who was named the 2022 recipient of CEA’s John McCormack Award for excellence in teaching and service to the profession, has now been recognized at the national level for his leadership in the classroom and the community. Tierinni has earned the 2023 California Casualty Award for Teaching Excellence. He joins 45 other awardees from around the country who will be celebrated by the NEA Foundation throughout the coming year for providing an inspiring, compelling vision of public school educators at a critical time in our nation’s history. The NEA Foundation will provide networking, professional development, and storytelling
opportunities for these educators so that they can continue their journeys as teacher leaders and advocates for the profession. The yearlong celebration will culminate in a Salute to Excellence in Education Gala on May 5, 2023, in Washington, D.C., where five of the 46 awardees will be chosen as finalists for the top national award and receive $10,000. The educator selected for the highest award will be revealed at the May 2023 gala and receive $25,000. The gala will be livestreamed. “NEA Awards for Teaching Excellence recognize educators from around the
country who shine in their schools and communities and who advocate for each other, the profession, and their students,” says CEA President Kate Dias, also a Manchester teacher. “I am so proud to congratulate my colleague on this honor and to have him represent all the excellent educators throughout our state.” Interested in applying for the John McCormack Award? Scan for more information.
MAKING THE SEASON BRIGHT 500+ children helped by 2022 Holiday Bear program
Amanda Moitoso and her kindergarten class at Greens Farms Elementary School in Westport are among the hundreds of teachers, students, and community members helping make the season brighter for more than 500 schoolchildren throughout the state. By taking part in the annual Holiday Bear program organized by the Connecticut Education Foundation (CEF), CEA’s charitable arm, Moitoso’s students sponsored two children whose families are struggling financially this year. “It was my first year participating in this wonderful project, and I wanted to involve my kindergartners to help them gain a better understanding of the world around them,” Moitoso says. “They were so passionate about helping David and Anna* and spoke of them often. ‘I went shopping for
Anna this weekend!’ they said. ‘I wonder if David needs a hat too, because he needs a jacket.’” (*not their real names) “We are so grateful to our generous members and friends who continue to make this annual gift-giving program a huge success,” says CEF President and CEA Vice President Joslyn DeLancey. “Each year, we work on making it better, and this year we accomplished that by providing durable, roomy duffle bags that sponsors can use to package their gifts and that serve double duty for children and teens using them for sports, overnights, and more.” Through the Holiday Bear program, teachers who are aware of students in need confidentially nominate those children to receive gifts during the holiday season. They put together lists of items that their students like and need—which could include clothing, toys, books, and more—adding sizes, favorite colors, and other specifics that help ensure a great fit for every child. Sponsors— including CEA members, staff, and community supporters— volunteer to shop, wrap, and deliver. “As teachers, we often get wrapped up—no pun intended!—in curriculum standards,” Moitoso says. “It’s
refreshing to be able to teach to real-world situations and bring that humanity into the classroom. This was a really powerful experience for my students. They were invested in helping their peers, and I am grateful for that opportunity. We will be doing it again!” While the Holiday Bear program is closed to gift-giving for this holiday season, the need exists year-round. Scan to learn about other ways you can get involved .
4 CEA ADVISOR DECEMBER 2022 – JANUARY 2023
TEACHER OF THE YEAR CEREMONY CELEBRATES CONNECTICUT’S TALENTED EDUCATORS
“You’ve demonstrated grace, creativity, and commitment to our students and the education profession, and for that, I thank you,” CEA President Kate Dias told teachers from more than 160 school districts who took the stage November 16 at The Bushnell in an event celebrating the importance of their profession and all its shining stars. Representing every grade from preK to 12, and every subject—from algebra to world music— educators received a standing ovation from their peers, students, and state leaders. “Here we are, able to celebrate your accomplishments and all the amazing things you did for students in the state of Connecticut,” Dias said in a video broadcast to the crowd. David Bosso, 2012 Connecticut Teacher of the Year and president of the Connecticut Teacher of the Year Council, welcomed 2023 honorees and their guests to the ceremony and recognized all educators for their devotion to their craft and for enriching the lives of thousands of students, especially during trying times. “Each year, we are thoroughly impressed by all the candidates, and we are truly thrilled to recognize you for excellence in our profession,” he said. “Your students and colleagues admire and appreciate you, and justifiably so. We hope that this evening offers an opportunity not only to celebrate but also to reflect on the important work we do and to be inspired by our collective impact.” “You are being honored for the experience you create in your classroom every day, live and in person,” said emcee and 2013 Connecticut Teacher of the Year Blaise Messinger. “You take those bare walls, those beat-up desks, and fluorescent lights and create a vibrant hub of learning. You take that curriculum and scope of sequence off the page and transform them into lessons and activities and experiences that energize, elevate, enrich, alter, and infuse the lives of your students.” Also commending teachers for their heroic efforts at removing academic and nonacademic barriers to students’ success and providing a world-class education that prepares children for bright futures were Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz and Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker. Better together Connecticut’s 2023 Teacher of the Year is 20-year veteran Bristol Eastern High School science teacher Carolyn Kielma, a first generation college student hailed as the backbone of her own school’s college preparatory program, which helps hundreds of students—many of Carolyn Kielma reminds educators to take care of themselves and one another, just as they do for their students.
2023 Connecticut Teacher of the Year winner*, finalists**, and semifinalists pictured (L-R) starting from the first row are Hilary Baude (Groton), John Allen** (Putnam), Carolyn Kielma*, Joel Nick (Farmington), Katherine Harbec (Mansfield), Amber Venoutsos (Enfield), Jennifer Rodriguez** (Newington), Bethany Rosin (Southington), Lisa Abel** (Simsbury), Rebecca Cipriani Reyer (Connecticut Technical Education System), Suzanne DesJarlais (Region 19), Maia Pavlick (Cromwell), Krisitine Komorowski (Bethel), Judy Bannon (North Branford), Amy Christman (ACES), Robert Bajoros (Region 13), Michael Aitkenhead (Weston), and Janice Skene (Glastonbury).
whom are immigrants, English learners, and/or first-generation college students—gain entry into universities around the country. “Thank you to all the educators and their families in the crowd tonight for coming here to support public education and the hard work we do,” she said. “We, as educators, are all masters of adaptation and evolution. The past few years forced us to step outside our comfort zones, whether in planning electronic or virtual lessons, understanding trauma-informed care and practice, or creating a multi-tiered system of support to get our scholars back on track in their learning. More than ever, we need collaboration amongst our peers in our professional learning communities. We need to recognize and promote cultures of equity as we evolve. This is not a quick and easy fix but will take intentionality and focus. We will only move forward by leaning on and supporting each other in this educational evolution.” Kielma emphasized the incredible power that educators have when they stand together. “We have greatness among us, and we absolutely need to harness it. Whether it’s a way to differentiate, a new online application, a classroom management tip, or even a failed lesson, it is you, my fellow educators, who have taught me the most,” she said. “I do not think I could’ve survived in this profession without other teachers who challenge me, support me, and remind me to just breathe. Never forget that we are a group of highly educated, motivated, and courageous professionals who understand the power of lifelong learning. We understand teaching. We ‘get’ kids. We know what works in our classrooms. Remember that. Trust in yourself and be a leader in your district.” Enduring lessons Kielma noted that the most enduring impacts students feel from their teachers stem from how educators spark curiosity, foster discovery, challenge students, and help them become self-motivated learners. “Rock star teachers understand that learning is not about knowing the right answer; it is a process of discovery,” she explained. “We know that teaching is not only about content but about helping youth become better humans. Students remember the sense of belonging that made them feel valued, accepted, and treated with respect in
your class. We know that if we believe that they can accomplish something difficult, they will believe it too.” She added, “We also must remember that while this profession is rewarding and vital to help develop productive citizens, it is also extremely exhausting and difficult. As educators, we are most effective when we are able to take care of our own mental health and well-being. Many teachers I know, myself included, are ‘natural helpers’ who sometimes forget to ask for help for themselves. So I feel it is imperative that our administrators promote and initiate self-care measures. As colleagues, we must remember to check on each other, practice building each other up, and straighten each other’s crowns.” The best form of representation Kielma also emphasizes the importance of diversifying the teaching profession, a goal that CEA is working to achieve on a number of fronts, from its Aspiring Educators program to its legislative agenda. Expanding on that theme at the November awards ceremony, she said, “Personally, I feel the absolute best way to represent students in the classroom is to inspire our children of all backgrounds to become educators. The best form of representation is not on a poster or slide show; it is in the front of the room as a highly educated role model for others to see and learn from.” “Carolyn is a shining example of how teachers across the state connect with their students and why those connections matter,” Dias remarked. “She has described these relationships as her greatest career reward—a feeling that every educator can relate to. Not only is she a role model for students who may not imagine themselves in STEM careers, but she also provides opportunities for them to step into that role themselves; through her STEM Mondays program, high school students lead science, technology, engineering, and math activities for the younger grades. Many of her students will be the first in their families to pursue a college education, and that is thanks in large part to her support and commitment. We are proud to congratulate Carolyn as well as all our exemplary educators around the state making a difference every day.”
Educators from every corner of the state were honored at The Bushnell on November 16.
DECEMBER 2022 – JANUARY 2023 CEA ADVISOR 5
WITH THE FINALISTS
Lisa Abel, Simsbury High School music teacher Budget cuts often hit music departments first and hardest. What can you tell us about the importance of music education? Music is such an integral part of my educational philosophy that it is difficult to define its importance as a separate component. In addition to its own value, aesthetics, and skills, the study of music embodies the larger goals of our school systems. Arts education is essential
Jennifer Rodriguez, Anna Reynolds Elementary School first-grade teacher, Newington How does it feel to be honored and to represent your colleagues?
to the development of social-emotional skills and provides opportunities for establishing equity and access. Several districts have recognized the impact of the arts and have aptly redefined their “specials” as “essentials.” The pandemic disproportionately impacted music instruction and created unique challenges there. Can you describe some of those? Music classes are spaces where strong communities are formed, and restrictions such as online lessons, hybrid classes, and spacing requirements significantly impacted the interactions between students. This year, music programs appear to have returned to normal. We began classes together in our regular spaces with no performance restrictions; festivals, concerts, and other events are in person. However, there are underlying impacts that music teachers will feel for years to come. At the start of the pandemic, current ninth-graders were just beginning their instrumental instruction in many districts. These students have never had an authentic ensemble experience. In many ways, the impacts of the pandemic are more apparent in my classroom now than over the
It is hard to believe just two years ago I was strongly considering leaving the profession altogether. Today, I am proud to say I am Newington’s Teacher of the Year and a 2023 Connecticut Teacher of the Year Finalist. The journey to the final four began with colleagues who saw something in me: a collective work of many hands and happy hearts. This experience has been affirming and uplifting.
You are a building rep at your school. Why is it important for teachers to stand strong with their union? When we link arms, we have a
stronger voice. When we link arms, we are given a seat at the table. Unions advocate for all aspects of education, and all stakeholders, students, and families are positively impacted by strong unions.
CEA is currently running an awareness campaign called Because of a Teacher that highlights themany positive impacts teachers have on their students. Do you have any stories of your own to share on that topic? When you are a first-grade teacher, it is hard to know your long-term influence on students as they grow through their public education experience and beyond. My students and their parents were interviewed during the Connecticut Teacher of the Year finalist selection, and here are some of the stories that brought me to tears. • A student and I made a lasting connection as we are both hearing impaired and wear hearing-aids. I shared my experiences with the class and normalized the disability. We watched videos that mimicked and helped students understand the hearing-impaired experience. This student is now a middle schooler who still emails me regularly to catch me up on her life and ask about mine. • The quiet student who remembers sharing a video of his “I Have a Dream Speech” from church with our class. How I celebrated that speech! I was so proud of him for being brave both in church and at school. His parents now attribute that encouragement and the love for reading instilled in first grade for setting him on a path to being an honor student and a lawyer. • The letter I hold from a student who wasn’t in my class. The family and I had become close. He was having a challenging time in middle school, and his parents asked if I would drive him to school, as they could not, and they didn’t feel he was safe on the bus. In his senior year, on the verge of graduation, he sent me a letter. He remembers those car rides and feeling safe. “When I needed a safe space and a ride to school, you were there for me. All of these small but important moments have added a lot to my life, and I will carry them with me.” John Allen, Putnam High School civics teacher How does it feel to be honored and to represent your colleagues? I am incredibly honored to represent my remarkable colleagues at Putnam High School. I feel grateful that this district took a chance on a brand-new teacher eight years ago. This community has built me into the teacher I am today. My colleagues, old and new, have inspired me and kept me sane throughout the uncertainty of the last several years, and I know without a doubt that I wouldn’t be where I amwithout them. I love this field, and I hope I make them proud.
past three years, as I have recognized the need to reinforce the fundamentals, practice strategies, and basic rehearsal techniques that are often learned in the younger grades. This will continue for several years. While we have had our challenges, music teachers have found silver linings in pandemic teaching. New technologies have provided opportunities for differentiating instruction and facilitating more efficient assessment. Composers and publishers are producing more accessible music, and teachers are working more collaboratively than ever to help one another recover from this difficult time. Tell us about a student who was inspired by you to do something cool. Some of the most meaningful relationships in my life are with former students. It is such a blessing to follow them after their graduation and celebrate their successes. From Simsbury, Allison Hughes Van Doran has established herself as a premier flautist and teacher and now works with my current students. Ben Poirot is pursuing a graduate degree in tuba performance on a full scholarship in Chicago and maintains a relationship with our band program when he is in town. Most recently, I reconnected with a student frommy first job, at Montville High School. Last spring, I came upon an article that interviewed Barry Zhou, a conductor with the Norwalk Youth Symphony, where he mentioned the impact I had on him. I was touched! He contacted me only a few weeks later to let me know he had accepted a high school director position. We have been in communication ever since, and I am excited to be visiting his school to work with his students. As teachers, we really never know the extent of the impact we can have on students! students engaged in understanding the world around them. It is always my goal that the content of my courses is functional and not forgotten. When they leave our school, I want my students to know how to be informed and make a difference. Who are the teachers who influenced you? I feel indebted to the most amazing teachers at Tolland High School who, through just being great teachers and people, changed my life for the better. I specifically want to shout out Kimberly Quirk, Frances Sterling, Ali Chase (now Carlson), and Beth Regan. I have stories for each of them, but I’ll share this one about Mrs. Regan, who we all called Regs. Regs had a reputation of being a larger-than-life person who was enthusiastic in all elements of our school culture. Discovering that I was interested in history, I had to take a class of hers. I loved the class from day one. She was passionate about everything we learned. She created all these fun inside jokes that carried throughout the whole semester. I walked away from that class with a thorough overview of Russia’s major moments in history and ended up using the content of that course over and over in my first year of college. At that point, I knew I wanted to become a teacher, but Regs’ presence in the classroom transcended the content of the class. She truly cared about each and every one of her students. One memory that sticks out to me was when a student tragically lost his father in a very sudden way. Regs asked the class if anyone had heard from him, and I told her privately why he was out of school. In that moment Regs changed the class from learning about Russian history to discussing how we could help when he came back to school. She told us, “Some things are more important than school.” We ended up making a card as a class that we all signed, and not one person was left out of its construction. We talked about life, and time seemed to stop in that class period. I’ll always appreciate that I witnessed in that moment how teachers acknowledge humanity before academics. Regs instilled that in me, and I try to carry that through the doors of my classroom every day. Beth Regan (“Regs”), now vice chair of the Council of Elders for the Mohegan Tribal Nation, delivered remarks at the Connecticut Teacher of the Year awards ceremony. She proudly gave a nod to Allen, her former student.
Educators have been hit particularly hard in recent years when it comes to attacks on what they teach, often because of misunderstandings about what is being taught. This is especially true when it comes to history and social justice. As a high school social studies teacher, what are your insights and experiences? What do you hope students gain from being in your class? As someone who teaches civics, politics, and history, I am clear to my students that it is never my goal to influence their views of an issue, and I am intentional about my wording to follow through with that. I provide the facts but want students to explore their ideas
without judgment and come to their own conclusions. In fact, I often tell my classes that diversity of ideas leads to the best discussions and debates. If everyone had the same views, my class would be boring! I know that I have the responsibility of preparing students to vote, and they trust me to provide themwith the tools to become informed citizens. My classes are not just about the content; I strive to get
6 CEA ADVISOR DECEMBER 2022 – JANUARY 2023
EDUCATION CHAMPIONS READY TO TACKLE BIG ISSUES CEA members ensure key wins in legislative races, continue advocating for education priorities
As the 2023 Connecticut General Assembly session gets set to begin next month, dozens of education champions are ready to take their seats in the state legislature. Political newcomers and incumbents alike, these lawmakers respect educators and value the support that helped get them elected. “Every election season, CEA puts together an Honor Roll of candidates dedicated to supporting our members on everything from teacher autonomy to pensions, and thanks to the hard work of so many of our members, leaders, and staff, this Election Day handed 83 percent of those candidates a win,” says CEA President Kate Dias. “We are exceedingly proud of everyone who made that happen.” Not only did CEA members turn out to vote in the midterms, but many also ran for office and invested hundreds of volunteer hours in the evenings and on weekends to make sure their colleagues got to the polls. CEA Government Relations was instrumental in that success, mobilizing member participation in postcard writing and turnout at weekend rallies, door knocking campaigns, evening phone banks, and poll standing. “Everyone knows how busy teachers already are, and yet we had volunteers taking extra time to reach out to fellow teachers, neighbors, and others to deliver important electoral wins for education candidates,” says CEA Political Engagement Coordinator Gus Melita. Those efforts are expected to pay off in the upcoming General Assembly session, as CEA advances a legislative agenda that improves the education experience in Connecticut’s schools and addresses teacher shortages, working conditions, retirement equity and security, and more. (See next page.) Key wins Among this year’s Election Day winners are CEA members themselves— teachers who decided to serve their communities in Connecticut’s House of Representatives. History teacher Ron Napoli won re-election in Waterbury, civics teacher Kevin Brown will represent Vernon, and Spanish teacher Christopher Poulos won his seat to represent Southington by an incredible one-vote margin.
“Chris was in a tough race, and his win really shows the power of getting out and making our voices heard,” says Dias. “We are grateful to everyone who took the time to engage in our precious democratic process.” In another close race, residents of Connecticut’s Fifth Congressional District sent 2016 National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes back to the U.S. House of Representatives. All other members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation, endorsed by NEA, were successful in their re-election campaigns as well. “Midterm election results show the power of teachers’ votes and voices,” says Dias, “and as the next legislative session gets underway January 4, we stand ready to work with our elected officials on issues that impact our communities, our profession, and our students.”
25,367 personalized emails sent
CEA staff and member involvement in phone banking, postcard writing, door knocking, and poll standing in towns like Danbury, Fairfield, Meriden, Southington, and Vernon delivered key education victories in the midterm election.
CEA ELECTION VICTORIES 100% CEA Statewide Honor
83% CEA Legislative Honor Roll designees who won their elections
4,764 direct member-to-member communications
Roll designees who won their elections
The Power of the Pen
Aside from calling and canvassing, many educators wrote letters to the editor backing local candidates who support teachers. One such letter, endorsing Representative Thomas Arnone, Governor Ned Lamont, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, Congressman Joe Courtney, and others, was submitted by social studies teacher and Enfield Teachers’ Association Vice President William Delaney. It is excerpted here. Over the past two years, we have seen a concerted effort of misinformed and misguided people posting on social media and speaking at public meetings trying to damage the reputation of educators and discredit public education in Enfield, around the state, and across our nation. Alarmingly, school personnel have even faced threats of violence from radicalized zealots who have fallen prey to the propaganda of this “movement.” The malignment of schools and teachers is irresponsible,
and further, it offers nothing substantive to the essential pursuit of improving our schools. It is counterproductive to the mission of supporting public education. Let us never forget that American public schools have helped prepare many generations of individuals for productive, responsible, fulfilling lives and are a cornerstone of our great republic. We must elect leaders who see the good in our public schools and who don’t propagate false narratives. We must elect leaders who support working as a team to consistently improve and raise the standards of our schools. We must elect leaders who believe in unity and not division. We must elect leaders who value pragmatism over ideology. We must elect leaders who fight for fundamental democratic and civic values like justice and the truth.
DECEMBER 2022 – JANUARY 2023 CEA ADVISOR 7
How To Attract And Retain Educators
SCHOOL CRISIS: 74% OF EDUCATORS CONSIDER CALLING IT QUITS CEA survey reveals underpinnings of teacher shortage
A growing crisis in Connecticut’s public schools has brought CEA leaders and elected officials together to focus on solutions ahead of the 2023 legislative session. “Three-quarters of our teaching workforce is looking to do something else,” CEA President Kate Dias told reporters at a November 22 news conference at the Legislative Office Building. “I don’t know how much more of a siren we need to wail to get a sense of urgency around this issue. We cannot wait until a hundred percent of our educators are looking to leave before we decide to act.” Dias was referring to results of a CEA survey, conducted this fall, in which 74 % of educators reported they are more likely now, compared to a few years ago, to exit the profession early. That’s up from 55 % of teachers surveyed by NEA in
near the districts where they teach. “That’s a real statement,” said
Dias. “We value you, but please don’t live here.” She added, “These are problems that can be solved. If you know a teacher, then you know somebody who has a solution to the shortage problem. If you know a teacher, you know somebody with immediate ideas. But you’ve got to listen to them.” Education allies Joining CEA at the news conference and in the push to address the crisis were Representative-elect Kevin Brown—himself a CEA member—along with Representatives Kate Farrar, Jillian Gilchrest, Kathleen Kennedy, Jennifer Leeper, Kathleen McCarty, Anthony Nolan, and
YOUR UNION, YOUR VOICE CEA advances teacher priorities at the Capitol, before Congress CEA made important legislative gains in 2022 on everything from mandating 30-minute, duty-free lunch breaks for educators to improving school indoor air quality and prohibiting dual instruction. Heading into the 2023 legislative session, your union is prepared to build on those successes and ensure that teachers, students, and public schools are fully supported in every way. Teachers’ priorities for 2023 center on addressing educator shortages, improving the classroom experience, ensuring equitable and secure retirement, requiring safe air quality and temperature controls, and more. Higher teacher salaries, commensurate with comparable professions, through a Teaching Enhancement Fund Teacher retirement equity and security, including COVID-19 retirement credit, full retirement benefits at 35 years of service, and repeal of the federal Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision, which preclude public school teachers from receiving Social Security benefits they have earned School temperature, humidity, and air quality standards and long-term funding, oversight, and enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance with those standards Continued ban on dual instruction so that teachers are not delivering in-person and online instruction at the same time Standardized testing limits and alternatives Play-based learning that allows more time for undirected play and physical activity in the early grades Reduced class sizes through school district incentives Teacher prep time that is self-directed and duty-free College tuition credit for students who complete teaching degrees and educators who complete master’s degrees Tax credits for early career educators Children’s mental health supports, including more resources, counselors, and social workers Kindergarten start age of five years by September 1 of the school year Improved mentoring for new teachers Meaningful teacher evaluation that replaces a ranking system with a collaborative process focused on professional growth Reforms that ensure fairness in binding arbitration in negotiations and due process in termination proceedings creative experience for teachers and students.” According to CEA’s survey, teachers’ priorities to strengthen and diversify the profession include • Salaries commensurate with comparable professions • Pandemic pension credit • Streamlined teacher evaluation • Reduced standardized test burden • Increased opportunities for play-based learning and creativity
Mary Welander. All legislators emphasized the immediate need for meaningful change and strong investments in the teaching profession. “This is an emergency situation, and we have to treat it as such,” said Brown, a CREC high school civics teacher who has felt the full effects of larger class sizes and fewer resources. “This is not a sustainable model. We need to treat teachers with the professionalism that they come to their jobs with. This is a highly
January and 37 % of teachers surveyed by CEA last fall.
Educators’ Top Concerns
Behind the spike are escalating teacher stress and burnout, an unaddressed educator shortage that continues to swell class sizes and multiply educators’ workload, pay that has not kept up with the demands of the profession, and numerous other issues. “We cannot get our jobs done,” Dias said. “We have been set up to fail.” Noting several hundred unfilled positions in special education alone at the beginning of the school year, combined with factors such as additional paperwork and an hourlong IEP process that now takes ten hours, she said, “It’s safe to say that every single special education teacher we have in the state of Connecticut is doing double duty right now.” Dias also pointed to attempts at bringing back the banned practice of dual instruction, efforts to upend reading and writing programs in schools, and more. Top issues Nearly all educators surveyed (98 %) identified teacher stress and burnout as their top issue, 96 % acknowledged staff shortages, and 93 % identified the lack of respect for teachers and students’ mental health needs. “Stress and burnout looks like teachers who are teaching more than 28 students in a classroom,” said Dias. “Stress and burnout looks like a high school teacher having to teach seven sections of math instead of five. Stress and burnout looks like excessive paperwork and unnecessary mandates that create pressure outside the classroom and take teachers’ attention away from the important work of serving children.” Furthermore, teachers’ salaries have not kept pace with those of professions requiring similar advanced degrees and responsibilities—so much so that educators often cannot afford to reside in or
educated workforce with certification and advanced degrees we typically reserve for higher paying jobs in private industry. That’s who’s going into your children’s classrooms every day.” “I’m the daughter of two public school teachers,” said Rep. Gilchrest. “I saw firsthand my parents’ passion and commitment to this profession, and I second what CEA has said—that we need to listen to the voices of our public school teachers here in Connecticut. They are crying out for help.” The mother of two public school students as well, Gilchrest added, “We need to give our public school teachers the respect they deserve, which means listening to them, paying them what they are worth, and giving them the space and time they need to prepare for their classes. I look forward to working with my colleagues on bipartisan efforts to improve conditions for our teachers.” “It’s very important that we look at teacher retention and recruitment, help our teachers stay in the classroom, and bring back the joy of teaching,” said Rep. McCarty, a ranking member of the legislature’s Education Committee. “Our
teachers have had to go through so much during this pandemic; the demands that we have placed on them are monumental.” McCarty called on her colleagues to work collaboratively with educators and
in a bipartisan manner. “It’s time that we show our teachers that we respect them and that we’re going to uplift the profession and make education a joyful,
English language learning resources Universal preK for all four-year-olds
See media coverage.
8 CEA ADVISOR DECEMBER 2022 – JANUARY 2023
EDUCATORS REIMAGINE EDUCATION, DISCUSS ALTERNATIVES TO STANDARDIZED TESTS Day of learning inspires teachers to share what’s working in their classrooms
Business leaders value soft skills In a panel discussion moderated by CEA President Kate Dias, business leaders agreed that while technical skills are important in their new employees, it’s the so-called “soft skills” they prioritize when hiring, and they find employees are most successful when they pursue their passions. “In our company we hire and fire based on our core values,” said Bob DeLisa, founder, partner, and CEO of Cooperative Systems. “We have four core values—personable, adaptable, dedicated to success, and accountable. Those are the skills we look for in our company.” Jen Tindall, chief legal counsel and vice president of human resources at Rebel Interactive Group, said that her company encourages employees to pursue their passions. “As much as we can, we give people license to follow their interests. We have had people who completely shifted their positions.” Tindall said that Rebel Interactive looks for people who are problem capable people who know their work inside and out, but if they can’t talk to our clients and present their ideas well, they won’t be successful.” “It’s interesting to me that we devalue these skills systematically,” Dias said. “We say we can’t measure them. Your companies’ core values speak to confidence and curiosity, and yet the tools we use to measure success don’t really reflect those.” Vive la révolution While most educators believe strongly in the need to reduce the role of standardized tests, they often struggle with how to move the education system in the right direction. “Sometimes educators need to ask permission, but sometimes we just need to assert solvers, curious, and honest. She agreed with DeLisa that soft skills are paramount. “Sometimes we have very
Children all have their own unique strengths and weaknesses, yet at every stop along their public education journey, they are subjected to the same standardized tests. Over the last few decades, the number and frequency of standardized assessments has increased, forcing a narrowing of the curriculum to tested subjects and heaping stress on students and teachers. Teachers widely consider
multiple intelligences. People are differently driven and have different personalities. Why can’t we have education that allows people to be different?” he asked. In the 30 years since Zhao came to the U.S., public education has been through many federal policy initiatives, including No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core. All have been driven by the notion
education, teacher attendees shared various solutions. “I shut the door and just teach,” said one. “From the parent’s side, I opted my child out, and their anxiety went way down,” another added. A teacher shared that in her local association, teachers banded together to document the negative effects of an online math assessment. “Teachers circulated while students were testing and wrote down what children were saying and doing. One student started crying, saying, ‘I don’t know this. I’m stupid.’ We brought the data to the person in charge of assessment. Eventually we didn’t have to do it anymore, and now have a much higher quality assessment.” “In our local association we documented how long assessments were taking, how many instructional minutes were being taken away, and how long it was taking to correct assessments and input the data into various spreadsheets,” another teacher said. “It
“...fight data with data.”
that the U.S. is falling behind compared to other countries. A few years back, China scored at the top
standardized tests to have gotten out of hand. In an October poll of CEA members (see page 7), 79 % identified overtesting as a serious concern.
of PISA, the Program for International Student
At a November symposium sponsored by CEA, AFT Connecticut, Sacred Heart’s Teacher Leader Fellowship Academy, Connecticut ASCD, and the Dalio Education, in collaboration with other organizations,* teachers, administrators, and school board members took up the challenge of considering how to improve education by reducing the role of standardized tests and moving to assessments that more accurately measure student growth. “Our education system is being driven by a very narrow view of what it means to educate a child,” keynote speaker Yong Zhao told attendees at the Redesigning Education forum held at the Sheraton Hotel in Rocky Hill on Election Day. Zhao, who grew up in China and taught there for six years before coming to the U.S., is a Foundation Distinguished Professor in the School of Education at the University of Kansas, a professor in educational leadership at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education in Australia, and an author of numerous books and articles. Zhao’s remarks concentrated on how standardized tests limit students and restrict what is taught while having little demonstrated correlation to success in adult life. “I challenge all of you to think about our students,” Zhao said. “These are our kids. They are very different; they are very diverse. Research has shown we have children born with different talents,
Assessment, which tests 15-year-old students in many countries in math,
Kate Dias CEA President
reading, and science. Zhao bristled at the suggestion from pundits that the U.S. should copy China’s approach to education to achieve the same scores. “Education in China is brainwashing,” Zhao said. “This kind of comparison with other countries destroys our diversity.” He continued, “Now everyone wants to go to Finland. American education is always driven by other countries. We can’t do anything without having an enemy.” Finland has consistently achieved top scores on international tests, but Zhao said the U.S. should look to its own strengths rather than attempting to copy countries with which it shares little. The U.S. sees itself as a country built by individuals, and in education, it has historically recognized differing talents and allowed children to be themselves, Zhao said. Overtesting has changed that, as every child is now expected to measure up in the same way. While the U.S. chases high test scores, Zhao said we don’t even know whether there’s any correlation between students’ PISA scores and their career success and life satisfaction as adults, yet we buy into these tests. “When I go to the doctor, my blood pressure may be good, but that’s just one indicator,” Zhao said. “It doesn’t mean that I’m healthy.”
added up to weeks of time. We went to our local union and then our superintendent. It took a lot of time, but we were able to make some changes.” “Sometimes we feel so helpless, but if you have data, you can fight data with data,” Dias said. “It makes it clear to administrators and the board of education that you’re not saying that, as an educator, you hate assessments. When
Windsor Superintendent Terrell Hill called on attendees to start a revolution to fight back against overtesting in schools.
you collect the impact data it empowers you, and your building representative will help you with that.” “I have the luxury of being okay with losing my job,” one teacher acknowledged while also recognizing that many educators are not in the same position. “Pushback should not be the responsibility of classroom teachers.” Windsor Public Schools Superintendent Terrell Hill agreed. “It shouldn’t be the teachers’ responsibility. I believe as superintendents we are first and foremost responsible. We have to stop being afraid.” He continued, “I just sent a text to the Windsor teachers’ union co president: ‘We’re going to start a revolution.’ We need to do what’s best for children. I’m calling out my leaders across the state. We have to stand up. We’re not going to get arrested. What’s the worst that could happen?”
ourselves and take the risk to do what is right,” Dias said. “We need to claim our voice as authorities and assert ourselves with administrators as well as state and national leaders.” Asked what actions they themselves take to fight back against standardized
*Additional support for the Redesigning Education symposium was provided by the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, Connecticut Association of Schools, and Connecticut Association of Boards of Education.
A panel of business leaders discussed the dispositions, skills, and abilities young people need to succeed in the workplace. From left are keynote speaker and education professor Yong Zhao; Bob DeLisa, Cooperative Systems; Jen Tindall, Rebel Interactive Group; Patrice McCarthy, Connecticut Association of Boards of Education; Kate Dias, CEA; and Betty Sternberg, Sacred Heart Teacher Leader Fellowship Academy.
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