With school districts across the country continuing to suffer from a shortage of teachers and school staff, the Connecticut Education Association launched a public awareness campaign to highlight the importance of the teaching profession. The campaign–Because of a Teacher, Every Profession Is Possible–showcases how teachers are a major influence on the lives and careers of Connecticut residents.
People from a variety of occupations are featured in the ad, including several in the medical and legal fields, businesspeople, politicians, accountants, educators, and others, explaining what they have achieved because of a teacher.
“Our dedicated educators leave an indelible mark through their passion for learning and learners, their encouragement, their expertise, and the relationships they form with their students,” says CEA President Kate Dias. “So many adults credit their teachers with who they are today, and that’s the central message of our ad. There’s nothing more rewarding for teachers than to see our students thriving in their personal and professional lives.”
“Teachers are tremendously important,” says Shamar Mahon, who is featured in the campaign. The auto sales general manager and youngest-ever Bloomfield councilman says, “They’re not only educators, but they’re also mentors. They’re guides. They help students understand where they are in the world and where they can go. They’ve made an impact on me, and I have seen how they have impacted so many of my peers.”
Mahon credits his teachers, including Bloomfield teacher Mary Kay Rendock, for his success. “I don’t know if any of us would be here today without our teachers guiding us along the way.”
“Teachers changed the trajectory of my life,” says Connecticut State Treasurer Shawn Wooden, also featured in the campaign. “I don’t know of anyone who is successful who can’t give a great deal of credit to their teachers. And when we think about that, more respect should be paid to the profession.” Teachers are the single most important in-school factor to student success. A recent Onepoll survey of parents of school-age children acknowledges the vital role of teachers, with three out of four parents crediting their former teachers for positively influencing their lives.
- Nearly three-quarters (73%) indicated that if it weren’t for their teachers, they wouldn’t be who they are today.
- More than half (58%) said the greatest life lesson teachers shared was showing them how to be a better person, and 54% said teachers impacted the hobbies they pursued.
CEA’s ad underscores the survey findings, spotlighting adults describing their occupations before cutting to a line explaining how it was a teacher who helped them get to where they are today.
“When I became the town’s youngest councilman,” says Mahon.
“When I help a child take those first steps after an injury,” says pediatric physical therapist Daneille Novak.
“When I invest millions to secure people’s futures,” says Wooden.
“It’s because teachers make every profession possible,” says nurse practitioner Marina Creed.
“It’s important that students and families know we are invested in their future and that we see their potential,” says Dias.
Behind every teacher, as well, are many educators who served as role models and gave inspiration. Teachers joining the campaign shared their stories about the educators who influenced them to teach.
Michael Fiorello, an English teacher at Stratford High School, says his decision to teach stems from a teacher who recognized certain qualities in him.
“I loved literature, reading, and writing and thought I would go into publishing,” Fiorello recalls, “but I didn’t know I liked being in front of the class teaching others. A teacher pulled me aside and said, ‘You’re a natural. You should go into teaching.’ Because a teacher inspired me, I became a teacher and have been teaching for 32 years.”
Glastonbury physics teacher Kristen Basiaga points to her high school physics teacher, who, she says, “blew me away.” Basiaga decided, “I would love to be a physics teacher and inspire kids, just like my teacher inspired me.”
Like her colleagues, Mikeya Stovall, a third-grade teacher at Read Elementary School in Bridgeport, credits numerous teachers whose voices stayed with her and shaped her into the teacher she is today. “I have many stories, many great educators who inspired me, and many things I keep with me and use in my classroom.”
Besides Stovall, Fiorello, and Basiaga, Connecticut teachers featured in the campaign are Kristen Record (Stratford), Mary Kay Rendock (Bloomfield), Natalie Lynn Smith (Glastonbury), Lauren Danner (Wallingford), Sandra Peterkin (Stamford), and retired teacher Karen DiMenna (Simsbury).
Rendock, a fifth-grade teacher at Carmen Arace School in Bloomfield and the 2006 Connecticut Teacher of the Year, says she is excited about CEA’s campaign and its spotlight on the long-term positive impact teachers have on students’ lives. One of the greatest rewards of her career, she says, is watching students, such as Mahon, make their mark on the world.
“He’s making a difference in the same town where he was educated, and there’s nothing like seeing this moment and knowing that you played a part in it,” says Rendock. “Seeing our students doing well and knowing that something we did made a difference in their lives is extremely gratifying and makes everything we do worth it.”
Danner, a Wallingford educator and 2017 Connecticut Teacher of the Year who reconnected with former student Noelle Esposito for the campaign, agrees.
“We know we help our students achieve their goals, but hearing from them as adults and listening to their stories about how teachers changed the trajectory of their lives is humbling and rewarding at the same time. It validates us and our hard work and shines a light on every educator in the state.”
Record, a physics teacher at Bunnell High School in Stratford and the 2011 Connecticut Teacher of the Year, stays in touch with many of her former students, including Alice Lam, a nurse featured in the ad, who credits Record for nurturing her interest in science. Record says it’s heartwarming to hear stories from former students about how she helped them in their journeys. “The most important work we do is building relationships and connections with students. It’s so rewarding to see them grow into successful adults in careers they love.”
Connecticut residents featured in the ad campaign are tax manager Christopher Bortolan, of Newington; attorney Michael Brown, of Wethersfield; nurse practitioner Marina Creed, of West Hartford; diversity, equity, inclusion, and engagement coordinator Jackie Davis, of Portland; photographer’s assistant Noelle Esposito, of Northford; paralegal Melissa Janick, of Suffield; nurse Alice Lam, of West Haven; town councilman and auto sales general manager Shamar Mahon, of Bloomfield; pediatric physical therapist Danielle Novak, of Southington; sports account executive Anthony Sanders, of West Hartford; real estate agent Jessica Starr, of Simsbury; and State Treasurer Shawn Wooden.
Current students are also featured in the ad. They attend public schools in East Haddam, Glastonbury, Hartford, Marlborough, Stamford, Suffield, West Hartford, and West Haven.
The commercial’s closing shot emphasizes the vital role educators play, ending with a montage of Connecticut professionals saying, “It’s because of a teacher,” and the final message: “Connecticut public school teachers: dedicated professionals making every profession possible.”
“Every one of us can still remember the teachers who inspired us to be the best we can be,” says Dias, “and the ad drives home the message that teachers play a huge role in making us successful adults.”
The new statewide public awareness ad campaign, sponsored by the Connecticut Education Association and the National Education Association, began this week on Connecticut’s major television networks, cable channels, streaming platforms, social media, and online news sites. View the campaign at cea.org/becauseofateacher.