WHAT DOES RETIREMENT LOOK LIKE? FOR ONE CEA-RETIRED MEMBER, IT’S COUNCIL MEETINGS AND CIRCLE TIME After 37 years as a gifted and talented education specialist in the special education programs of about racial equity. Perspectives are becoming more extreme, she has observed, and those with more moderate views are often pushed out.

stepping up and filling in, many educators lose their planning time. “Subbing also gives retired teachers a chance to sample many different areas and levels of teaching,” she says. “I never got to run an art class or be a reading specialist or try to teach a high school math lesson. It’s exciting and a new kind of challenge.” Recently she filled in for a kindergarten teacher. “She was a former district teacher of the year, and she left detailed, organized lesson plans,” Thomas says. “She was great, her classroom was welcoming and inclusive, which really touched me, and the class size was only 15 students—which is what real education reform looks like. Having taught at the elementary school level for years, I have a toolbox I can reach into, which makes it easier to step into a classroom. Of course, the first day can be difficult. By noon, kindergartners are ready for a nap! But I can do relaxing mindfulness activities with them, and by the second day, I know all their names, so it gets easier.” Are you a retired teacher active in your community? We want to hear about it! Email lesiad@cea.org and tell us more.

Windsor and Hebron public schools, Lisa Thomas retired from teaching this past June. But with staffing shortages, threats to public education, and the imperative that teachers are recognized as professionals and able to work safely and retire with dignity, she has remained as active as ever in local and statewide politics and education. “After a long career and membership in CEA, I’m a proud member of CEA-Retired,” says Thomas. “I’ve served on the Coventry Town Council since 2007, I’ve testified on education bills before the legislature—right up until the pandemic shutdown, and I was just appointed by Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney to Connecticut’s Reading Leadership Implementation Council, which implements the activities of a newly established literacy center that oversees reading readiness and curriculum.” She adds, “As teachers, active or retired, we need to be on the front lines with our voices.” Staying involved Recent town council and board of education meetings, Thomas says, have been contentious—and in many cases disruptive, with participants disagreeing on fundamentals such as masking in schools and teaching

“If you want to have your values represented,” she advises teachers, “you need to vote.” As a former Diversity and Equity Team member with the Windsor Public Schools and vice president and negotiating team member of the Hebron Education Association, Thomas feels strongly about standing up for her profession and for honesty in education. The surest way to do that, she says, is to become involved in your union, in civic life, in your community, and in elections. “From a personal, individual standpoint, you need to be informed about what’s happening with your pension and health insurance. Once you’re an educator, you’re in it for the long haul. Your passion for education doesn’t go away once you retire; you’re invested in your community, and you should stay connected to it by supporting your school budget and your schools.” Back in the classroom In addition to running for re-election for town council in Coventry, Thomas has been substitute teaching in Tolland and has received requests to fill in at schools in other districts. “There has been an increase in students coming to school with trauma,” she explains, “and it’s not just urban schools—it’s everywhere.

Substitute teachers are not always given that information, and they don’t always know what to expect. They don’t know that chairs may be thrown at them. There are only so many times they’re going to walk into that situation, especially with low rates of pay for substitute teachers. Plus, more recently, there’s the whole COVID piece. People are concerned about going into public spaces and have not been raising their hands to substitute.” With her years of experience in the classroom, Thomas finds substitute teaching gratifying, and she points out that without experienced educators like her From politics to kindergarten playgrounds, CEA-Retired member Lisa Thomas stays in the mix.

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