To become the best teacher you can be you need time to engage with quality professional learning, make connections with fellow educators, and receive support from your teaching colleagues. Every August Connecticut teachers come together to do just that thanks to CEA’s Summer Leadership Conference.
On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week 370 CEA members are gathered at the Mohegan Sun Conference Center to further their professional knowledge, expand skills on union issues, and collaborate with colleagues from across the state.
Members are participating in tracks on a range of issues from Teachers and the Law to New Negotiators to Teacher Evaluation and Professional Development. Tracks help local Association leaders learn to be strong advocates for the teaching profession so that they can support their colleagues to have a voice in the process and implementation of education initiatives that impact their students.
Amy Carta, vice president of the Education Association of Cromwell, and treasurer Kristina Matuskiewicz are new to their roles in their local Association and are attending a track on organizing to learn how to better involve new members. “The session is very good,” Matuskiewicz said. “We now have a clear understanding of how things work in other districts and are getting ideas from our colleagues.”
“I would tell members who have never attended Summer Leadership that they should plan to come next year. It’s a great learning experience,” said Carta.
Heather Goldstein, a first grade teacher in Suffield, is one of 57 teachers who are at Summer Leadership for the first time this year. Goldstein is on the Negotiating Committee in her local Association for the first time and is taking the New Negotiators track.
“It’s helpful to be around others going through the same experience so we can all learn from each other,” Goldstein said. “I would come back again and I encourage other teachers to take advantage of all CEA has to offer.”
Fifth grade Montville teacher Carl D’Amato is also at Summer Leadership for the first time this year. D’Amato is a fourth year teacher and local Association building representative who says he’s taking the Grievance Processing track because he’s a firm believer in unions and wants to be involved. “I appreciate the training provided by CEA because it helps me help my colleagues as best I can,” he said.
“Unions are the ones who fought for many freedoms we enjoy today,” D’Amato said. “It’s a privilege and responsibility to make sure our freedoms are not eroded.”
Donna Kirk, an East Hampton special education teacher and building representative, is also taking the grievance track. “As a building rep and member of the local Association executive board I need information on grievances so that I can be prepared with accurate knowledge in order to collaborate and find ways to solve situations amicably,” she said.
“The Summer Leadership Conference provides me with the opportunity to talk with colleagues, keep up with what’s current, sharpen my tools, and get an understanding of what’s going on of importance to the profession,” said Kirk.
After reflecting on this article, my quote in the article, and my profession as a teacher and my association in a union, that this conference wasn’t about making me a better teacher. It was about taking a role of responsibility in a union. It’s a Union Leadership conference. I take that very seriously (though I was disappointed to learn we don’t have a union band…what kind of union doesn’t sing songs?), but it is separate from my acumen as a teacher. Carl D’Amato
Hi Carl – thanks for being willing to be featured in this article. Different Summer Leadership tracks focus on different subjects–the Grievance Processing track certainly helps teachers take on a role of responsibility in their union. Many teachers feel that the support and protections of their union are key factors in allowing them to focus on their students and improve their professional practice.