The coronavirus may have closed school buildings, but it has also revealed the determination and resolve of educators to help their students.
This pandemic has also exposed a great divide. Some students have been disproportionately affected, and, unless we act, they will face steeper obstacles in the future because of it.
That’s why NEA is launching a national advertising campaign aimed at advocating on behalf of students, their families, and the nation’s public school teachers.
We cannot let this pandemic deprive our schools and communities of the support they need to serve students now and when this crisis is over. The nation’s recovery from COVID-19 will run through our public schools, so we need to make sure we prioritize students and educators in coronavirus relief legislation.
Watch the ad below, and then visit www.nea.org/covidaction for resources for educators, parents, and communities to address the crisis and its impact on education.
At a virtual education roundtable meeting of Governor Ned Lamont’s Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group, public health officials and education stakeholders discussed issues surrounding school reopening plans.
On a regular Saturday, the parking lot at Victoria Soto Elementary School in Stratford’s south end sees some 150 families come through for a monthly food pickup from the Connecticut Food Bank. Lately, however, those numbers have nearly doubled. And the same teachers who have spent the first Saturday of every month this school year volunteering to distribute food have stepped it up to accommodate the growing number of families struggling to make ends meet.
Teachers and their fellow volunteers pose on a recent Saturday morning before preparing to distribute food to the growing number of families struggling to make ends meet.
Back in September, Victoria Soto kindergarten teacher Judee McMellan spearheaded the food donation effort with the Connecticut Food Bank. Her school, which serves grades K-1, shares a campus and driveway with Stratford Academy Johnson House, for grades 2-6. Colleagues from both buildings as well as Franklin Elementary and other Stratford schools joined in the project, forming a corps of nearly 30 volunteers whose ranks also included custodial staff, administrators, family members of teachers, a board of education member, a town official, and local high school students.
“My school is in a low-income neighborhood,” says McMellan, who has spent the last 37 years of her 40-year career in Stratford. “There is tremendous need in our community as well as a huge outpouring of support.” Read more
Learn how taking a few minutes for gratitude meditation can increase positive feelings. Giving yourself regular reminders of what you’re most grateful for can have a powerful impact on your body and mind.
Find out more by watching this week’s CEA Mindful Moment video.
When Brookfield High School science teacher Heather Biancheri learned of the impact COVID-19 was having on members of her community, she did what many fellow educators around the state began doing: helping those most vulnerable with food delivery and more.
“I began volunteering to deliver food each week to senior citizens to keep at-risk people safe at home,” she says. She also used social media to help educate others about the pandemic.
Brookfield High School teachers Stephanie Vivas and Heather Biancheri collect PPE for their charity, PPE Donations for CT. (They note that they ensure social distancing and that the photo was taken before masks were mandated in Connecticut.)
Soon, however, the 17-year veteran teacher stumbled upon a unique and critical source of support she could also provide. With schools closed and science labs standing empty, Biancheri realized she had a surplus of much-needed gloves, gowns, and other personal protective equipment that were in short supply at hospitals and other healthcare facilities. She knew other science teachers were also sitting on PPE gold mines in their schools.
“I considered the amount of PPE that would be easily collectable from our school labs,” she says. “Realizing that no one had begun to undertake this process, this is where I began my journey to support our community.” Read more
Keeping school buildings closed for the academic year “breaks my heart,” Governor Lamont said at a press conference this afternoon. However, despite the governor’s hope that students might be able to return to school for a few weeks, after hearing from superintendents, parents, and teachers, he concluded “this was no time to take that risk.”
“While this decision to cancel is not welcomed by students, parents, or educators, we know that we have to continue to look at this as a safety issue,” said Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona.
He continued, “For students listening, your school year has not ended, your teachers and district school leaders and staff are committed to supporting your learning through the remainder of the school year. While we know it’s not the same, on this Teacher Appreciation Day, I want to acknowledge all the educators who have given tirelessly to their students while tending to their own families and caring for their loved ones—thank you. We have a month left of classes. Let’s finish strong, Connecticut.” Read more
Luciana Lira arrives home with Neysel, her student’s baby brother.
Teachers often feel the tug—from parents, community members, and their own heartstrings—to go the extra mile for the students in their care, far beyond the hours of the school day or the walls of the classroom. Nowhere is that truer than in the home Luciana Lira, a Stamford ESL/native language and bilingual teacher who is now caring for a newborn whose parents and older brother—one of her Hart Magnet Elementary School students—tested positive for COVID-19.
Weeks ago, while the Stamford teacher was in the thick of adapting to remote teaching after schools closed, she received an unexpected call from the mother of one of her seven-year-old students. The woman, a Guatemalan asylum seeker, could barely speak or breathe. Clearly distressed, Zully was calling from the hospital, where she was in labor several weeks early. With no else she could contact, she reached out to her son’s teacher and asked Lira if she could get in touch with her husband, who is unable to speak, read, or write in English. Then she asked Lira if she could come to the hospital; she had just been diagnosed with COVID-19 and was about to deliver. Read more