What does your union mean to you? Fairfield Ludlowe High School teacher Sara Goepfrich, who serves as a building rep in her school, says it’s easy to be an island in your own classroom and do your own thing, but that approach doesn’t work so well when it comes to protecting teachers’ rights and securing resources for students.
“The union is not some entity outside of ourselves. The union is everyone we work with, it’s us, and through our union we can advocate for our needs and for our students’ needs,” says Goepfrich. “Unions give a voice to our profession to allow us to advocate for what students need to be successful in the classroom. They also create a support system for new teachers to ask questions and gain support in a non-evaluative way. Unions allow us to advocate for things that are unpopular but really necessary for students. Things that administrators might push back against or that might be seen as making waves.” Read more
Just two weeks ago, Plainfield Memorial School students and teachers had no idea where they’d be starting their school year after a fire caused extensive damage to their school building. Yet, thanks to the generosity, hard work, and dedication of a community pulling together, 350 fourth and fifth graders are back at school today with their teachers, ready for the year ahead.
“These two weeks have taught me something about kindness I’ll never forget,” says principal Natasha Hutchinson.
“Our whole school initiative is talking about grit. Boy, have we shown grit,” says fifth grade teacher Jessica Phaneuf.
When Jessica Phaneuf found that the classroom she’d be using with her fourth graders lacked cabinet doors, she quickly improvised a solution.
Long before #ProtectDreamers was trending, students in Amy Claffey’s Spanish classes at Old Saybrook High School were learning about the vast hurdles undocumented people face—and the misconceptions surrounding them in the communities where they live. In an effort to educate their school about immigrants from Mexico and Central America, Claffey’s students, with help from high school library/media specialist Christine Bairos, completed a project that brought greater awareness of immigration issues to their peers and the wider community.
With help from teachers Christine Bairos (left) and Amy Claffey (right), Old Saybrook students pursue questions about immigration.
The football equipment necessary to ensure students’ safety can be expensive, and in a district like Waterbury, funding for sports programs is in short supply. “I fill out a lot of funding applications from all kinds of sources, and I often don’t hear back,” says Crosby High School Head Football Coach David Jurewicz, a technology education teacher at the school.
The Waterbury Teachers Association member was therefore thrilled today when, at what he thought was to be a routine staff meeting, he was surprised with a $1,000 athletic grant from California Casualty.
“This is going to help the team out tremendously,” says Jurewicz. “It will go a long way toward getting us the equipment we need.”
A technology teacher and the Head Football Coach at Crosby High School in Waterbury, David Jurewicz poses with Principal Jade Gopie next to student artwork depicting the school’s mascot.
Building reps are often a teacher’s first point of contact when questions arise—ranging from practical matters to sensitive subjects. They are their colleagues’ contract enforcer, organizer, and spokesperson.
A building rep’s job is vital, but it’s time-consuming, and often receives little thanks.
That’s why, here at CEA, we’re recognizing building reps around the state for their dedication to their colleagues and their willingness to devote time out of their busy schedules to this important job.
Building Rep Ricardo Gibson has been a physical education and health teacher at Reed School in Waterbury for six years, but this is his first year as a building rep. Read more
NEA Today is featuring retired educators who are still making a difference—and one of those highlighted is Connecticut’s own Jon-Paul Roden. A former CEA-Retired president, Roden was recently elected to his second term on the NEA-Retired Executive Council.
Read about Roden’s continuing contributions to the teaching profession below.
Computer Science Teacher, Vernon, Connecticut
When Jon-Paul Roden started teaching in 1965, he needed to take on a second job to help supplement his income. This side job, along with others, made him eligible for Social Security benefits when he retired in 2000. His colleagues who didn’t take outside work and had only teaching pensions were left without a Social Security benefit, and most importantly, the Medicare Part B coverage. Read more
Coach Mary Kay Rendock, at right, and assistant coach Lauren Serafino, at left, with last year’s 5th-8th grade softball team.
Ninth-grade girls in Bloomfield have been arriving at the high school and joining the varsity softball team never having touched a glove before. Without a town league or a middle school team, there were few opportunities for students to play.
Now all of that is changing, thanks to the time and dedication of Carmen Arace Intermediate School math instructional coach Mary Kay Rendock.
It’s not just about teaching students what a strike zone is and how to swing a bat, though. For Rendock, the relationships students develop and the confidence the sport offers are what truly make the experience worthwhile.
“Being on a team is really special,” says Rendock. Read more
In an era when arts and music education sometimes lose out to subjects more easily assessed by standardized tests, Torrington is being recognized for choosing a different path. For the 17th consecutive year, Torrington has been named one of the best communities nationwide for music education by the National Association of Music Merchants.
The commitment Torrington teachers, students, parents, and community members have made to music education was on display this spring at the All City Elementary Honors Orchestra & Band Concert. Fifth graders from all five of the districts’ elementary schools, along with their middle and high school mentors, came together under the direction of band director Ashlee Casko and orchestra director Tia Ward-de Leone for an evening performance that left parents and community members deeply inspired and impressed.
A group from last year’s Commit to Stay Fit program in East Hartford.
Leading into May—National Physical Fitness and Sports Month—the last week of April is Every Kid Healthy Week, which shines a spotlight on students’ health and wellness and the link between nutrition, physical activity, and learning.
“Healthy kids are better prepared to learn,” says Monique Butler, a fifth-grade teacher and building rep at O’Brien Elementary STEM School in East Hartford, which kicks off its own celebration this Wednesday with Commit to Stay Fit: Children and Families. The program, now in its seventh year, promotes wellness, good nutrition, and exercise habits. Read more