“It’s all about the future,” emphasized Katy Reddick, who teaches Latin at Strong Middle School in Durham, when asked why issues of climate change and environmental consciousness resonate so strongly with teachers. Anthony Sorge, a Naugatuck High School English teacher, agreed. “We spend our time with young people who will be inheriting the world we’re leaving them. By participating here, we demonstrate they can have a voice and impact change.”
Reddick and Sorge were among the Connecticut Education Association members participating in the Hartford Earth Festival yesterday. CEA was a prominent sponsor of the inaugural event, which began with a rally on the steps of the State Capitol, immediately followed by a march through downtown Hartford to a family-friendly environmental festival at Mortensen Riverfront Plaza. More than 50 labor, religious, and environmental organizations endorsed the initiative, which drew hundreds despite stormy skies and scattered showers.
CEA’s participation came after the CEA Representative Assembly voted in 2014 to “investigate and form alliances with groups and causes that are working toward an agenda of economic growth that will benefit all Americans and that will strengthen the middle class with more economic security and opportunity.”
“As teachers, part of our task is to educate, so we have a vested interest to help better the world,” explained Jason Poppa, a third grade teacher at Bridgeport’s Blackham School, noting that even young students “can relate to the concepts” of “protecting the planet.”
Among the speakers launching the day’s activities was CEA Vice President Jeff Leake, who was introduced by event organizer Terri Eickel. Eickel expressed excitement and appreciation for the support of CEA. Jameelah Muhammad of the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network echoed the praise, thanking CEA members for “teaching our children every day how to be good stewards of the Earth.”
Leake, who stressed that teachers work every day for a “brighter future” for their students, urged the marchers to “promote healthier communities,” explaining that teachers see the effects of the rise of seasonal allergies, for example, on “the health of children, and their ability to stay focused in the classroom.”
“We are here as social justice activists,” Leake proclaimed. “We need a green labor revolution.”
Reddick, who was accompanied by husband Chad Reddick, who teaches at Portland Middle School, and their 10-month-old, Atticus, said there has been a noticeable transformation in recent years. “For kids today, protecting the planet is part of their everyday life. Recycling and reusing is automatic.”
CEA sponsored the Imagination Station booth, which attracted youngsters mesmerized by entertainers extolling environmentally-sensitive messages, including Cyril the Eco-Magician. The day also featured various local musicians and exhibits highlighting how to take care of our planet.
As for the increasing interest in environmental issues, Sorge concluded that “people have seen more. Symptoms of climate change are unavoidable.” And why would teachers take time on a Sunday afternoon to show support for protecting the Earth’s vitality? Another participant responded by pointing to a hand-made sign held aloft which read, “’Cause I Live On It.”