This July 4, the NEA Representative Assembly is on to day two of the first in-person RA in three years. Connecticut delegates are using the occasion of the in-person meeting to connect with Texas teachers and extend their sympathy with handwritten cards to each member of the Texas delegation.
CEA members who attended the 2013 NEA RA remember the letters of sympathy they received from their Texas colleagues following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, and CEA delegates this year wanted to extend a similar gesture to Texas educators who are struggling in the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde.
[Above, CEA Vice President Joslyn DeLancey, NEA Director Katy Gale, President Kate Dias, and Secretary Stephanie Wanzer deliver cards to Texas State Teachers Association Vice President Linda Estrada.]
“Texas delegates brought us cards after Sandy Hook, so we wanted to make sure to reciprocate the gesture,” says RA Planning Committee member and Darien Education Association Vice President Jen Fischer. “It’s been a tough time for all teachers.”
Many Connecticut delegates to the NEA RA have ties to the Newtown community and still feel deeply the loss of 26 students and educators.
Danbury teacher Lammia Agoora remembered Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung as she wrote her letters to Texas teachers. Agoora worked with Hochsprung when Hochsprung was the assistant principal at Rogers Park Middle School in Danbury.
“When Dawn went to work at Sandy Hook, her husband continued to teach with us at Rogers Park,” says Agoora. “It broke our hearts. She was such a good assistant principal.”
Agoora says that working in Danbury, which neighbors Newtown, she has encountered many people impacted by the Sandy Hook tragedy.
“It amazes me that these tragedies continue. Other countries don’t lose their children like this,” she adds. “2012 wasn’t that long ago. When the shooting happened in Texas, it brought me back to Sandy Hook.”
New Canaan Education Association President Vivian Birdsall says that her daughter babysat for one of the children who died in Sandy Hook.
“It was one of the most harrowing things that a community can ever go through,” Birdsall says. “I can’t think about the Texas shooting without crying. Our education system has failed the young people who committed these crimes. We need to take a hard look at the mental health crisis in this country, and we need to begin with students and young children.”
“We wrote these cards for our Texas colleagues to show solidarity. We want them to know other teachers from other states have their backs,” says Bridgeport teacher Vidyotma Gupta. “When it comes to changing these ridiculous laws, they need to know we’ll stand as one.”
“Gun violence has affected so many families,” says Agoora. “I’m praying for Texas teachers. These school shootings don’t affect just one school district, they affect us all.”