“How beautiful!” “This is so awesome!” Teachers at Langford Elementary School in East Hartford sounded like participants on an HGTV home renovation show when they walked into their staff room last Monday—but it wasn’t a team of reality show stars that had made the changes possible. It was more than 40 college students, members of the CEA Student Program.
“They were awesome and so energetic,” says East Hartford Education Association President and Langford teacher Annie Irvine, who joined the students for the weekend school beautification project. “The students worked really hard, and spent a long, full day at our school. Our custodian was really impressed by them, their work ethic, and how hard they were working to make the staff lounge a better, more inviting space.”
In addition to prepping and painting the staff room the students worked in teams on a variety of projects for the school including cleaning and organizing the staff room work space, painting murals for the staff room and music room, hanging posters, redoing bulletin boards, painting kindness rocks for the students, and writing inspiration sticky notes for the staff.
“They are really talented,” says Irvine. “They did two gorgeous murals for our staff room, and they look so professional and beautiful. Staff members were impressed.”
“Teachers are so busy with everything they have on their plates. It’s nice to be able to come in and show them that we appreciate the hard work they’re putting in every day,” says CEA Student Program Chair and Eastern Connecticut State University senior Jenna Mancini. “It’s also fun for us because we get to work together with CEA Student Program members from across the state. For some of the students it was their first time meeting members from other schools.”
The CEA Student Program has six chapters at Connecticut colleges and universities. It offers unique opportunities in professional development, community outreach, leadership, and networking for future teachers to support their entry into the teaching profession.
The students take on a school beautification project every year and find it a rewarding way to give back to the community.
“The school is the students’ and teachers’ home away from home, and the more welcoming and inviting the environment, the better everyone will feel about being there,” says CEA Educational Issues Specialist Michele O’Neill, CEA’s student organizer. “We know that all school employees work hard—teachers, custodians, office staff—and sometimes extra projects take a back seat to everything required for the daily operation of the school. This event was our way of giving back to a community school that does so much for its students and families.”
Irvine says the inspiration wall of sticky notes in particular was a big hit as far as the teachers were concerned. “Teachers were really looking at all of the notes, and some chose a note that had special meaning to them and wore it all day. It was a nice pick-me-up on a Monday morning—it was a nice bit of optimism for everybody.”