CEA ‘STRONGER THAN EVER’ CAMPAIGN SHINES SPOTLIGHT ON TEACHERS TV, radio, online ads highlight educators’ commitment to safe, welcoming learning environments

P ublic school teachers throughout the state enthusiastically welcomed students back to in-person learning this fall, prepared to create safe, nurturing learning spaces despite the unknowns and demands of the pandemic.

That was the core message of a statewide public awareness ad campaign sponsored by CEA and the National Education Association, featuring eight Connecticut educators with a wide range of experiences. “Responding and adjusting quickly to the chaos of the pandemic, teachers have shown their tenacity, flexibility, and perseverance,” said CEA President Kate Dias. “Our ad campaign captures their excitement over being back at school, ready to make this a great year for their students.” The ad opens with a reminder of the school experience last year— with the challenges of virtual learning and the pandemic’s toll on teachers and students—before transitioning to this year, showcasing vibrant, effective, safe classroom environments with dedicated professionals on the front lines. Teachers are celebrated for their professionalism and their commitment to children’s health and safety, social emotional well-being, and academic success. Reflecting a diversity of backgrounds and experiences, educators featured in the campaign include New London teachers Rich Baez, Colleen Delaporta-Wells, Efraín Domínguez, Chris Marsala, May Reitz, and Cheryl Viveiros; East Hartford’s Tracey Lafayette; and Newington teacher Elsa Batista. Baez, a former municipal law enforcement officer who teaches at

Jennings Elementary School—and serves as president of the New London Education Association—said, “After a year and a half of recreating what teaching is like and shifting back and forth from remote to in-person to synchronous teaching, we see just how resilient and strong teachers are. Regardless of everything that was thrown at us during the pandemic, we got the job done.” Lafayette, who teaches at East Hartford’s O’Brien Elementary School, agrees. “The last two years were challenging for everyone, testing us in many ways,” she says. “But teachers came together to help each other and their students. We got creative with solutions. We never stopped trying to make meaningful connections.” That creativity, resilience, and emphasis on relationships will be key this year as well, she adds. Reitz, who teaches alongside Baez at Jennings School, explains, “After 20 years of being in person with students, we had to go online. Now that we’re back in the classroom, we want students to know we are here to keep them safe. We are a family here at school. I’m excited to see my fourth-graders face to face—and parents, when they pick up their children, are excited to see teachers.” Delaporta-Wells, a Nathan Hale

hard for everyone. “Last year was very difficult. The hardest thing wasn’t the technology or the learning curve, but not being in our classrooms with our students. The most important work we do is building relationships and connections with students—which, while not impossible, is made more difficult remotely. I am excited to have students in front of me this year. It is a much richer experience.” An early-career educator who was finishing his master’s degree during the pandemic, Marsala—a music teacher at New London’s Harbor Elementary School—has a unique perspective on the challenges of distance learning. “I was a learner at the same time I was a teacher,” he explains. “Coming into this ad campaign, I am excited to get the message out that we are compassionate, we are helping students with social emotional regulation—which is key to 21st-century skills—and we are about community well-being. What matters is what is in the hearts of our students.” Viveiros, a math teacher at Bennie Dover Jackson Multi-Magnet Middle School, and Domínguez, a bilingual teacher at the same school, echo that sentiment. “The reason I’m excited about this campaign is the same reason I went into teaching,” Viveiros says. “It’s important that students and families know we are invested in their future and we see their potential.” CEA’s Dias said the campaign aims to give Connecticut families a

sense of confidence and optimism about the school year and to underscore that safe, in-person learning is the best way for students to learn and grow. “It drives home the message that Connecticut teachers and schools are about more than just academics,” she says. “Teachers are professionals trained to navigate the unexpected and here to ensure every child feels safe, supported, and loved.” “Even though the pandemic is not over,” says 2020-2021 Newington Teacher of the Year Elsa Batista, a foreign language teacher at Martin Kellogg Middle School, “I want to reassure students, parents, and our community that we will do everything in our power to provide a quality education and the resources and services needed. We are back stronger than ever.” The month-long ad campaign began airing September 19 on Connecticut’s major television networks, radio stations, cable channels, streaming platforms, and news sites, as well as Spanish television and radio. It was filmed at the Science and Technology High School on Jefferson Avenue in New London, following all safety procedures and CDC guidelines, including mask-wearing, cleaning and disinfecting, and social distancing. Joining CEA members in the ad campaign were students from New London, Newington, Norwich, Bridgeport, and Fairfield.

Arts Magnet School special education teacher and New

London’s 2022 Teacher of the Year, says not being in the classroom was


Left to right: Efra Í n Dom Í nguez, Elsa Batista, Cheryl Viveiros, Rich Baez, Chris Marsala, Tracey Lafayette, May Reitz, and Colleen Delaporta-Wells.

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