In their homecoming football game last weekend, the UConn Huskies broke a two-year losing streak to score a 21-15 win against the Yale Bulldogs—a victory made even sweeter by hundreds of CEA members cheering them on.
“Our teachers—many of them in their UConn or #RedForEd colors—came out early to show their pride and support,” said CEA President Kate Dias, adding, “CEA made sure to kick off the day with a morning-long teacher tailgate celebration. Opportunities to connect with colleagues are so important, and they can be a lot of fun.”
Sponsored by CEA and California Casualty, the second-annual CEA Teacher Appreciation Day at Rentschler Field featured complimentary hot breakfast for CEA members and guests, along with music, a fan photo booth, and games of cornhole, football toss, and ladder golf. Teachers were also treated to dozens of prizes that included CEA and UConn Neag School of Education swag, as well as tickets to concerts and Broadway shows at Waterbury’s Palace Theater, a CEA Member Benefits partner.
“We love providing a way for CEA members to get together in a spirited environment outside the classroom,” said CEA Vice President Joslyn DeLancey.
“We’re so happy to show our appreciation for everything teachers do for their students and communities,” said Marie Gull, of California Casualty. “I hope they enjoyed this event, because they sure do deserve it.” California Casualty sponsored CEA’s first-ever teacher tailgate celebration and joined forces with CEA again this year.
Thank you, teachers
“CEA Teacher Appreciation Days are another example of our union looking out for us, giving teachers an outlet, and showing gratitude and recognition for their members,” said Chris Sparks, an East Hartford High School language arts teacher and member of the East Hartford Education Association’s executive board. A regular at Huskies football games, Sparks says his brother played football for UConn and was on the team that first opened at Rentschler Field.
Bridgeport teacher Vidyotma Gupta, one of the newest members of CEA’s Member Benefits Committee, lent a hand at the tailgate registration and prize table.
“I’m here because I want to be a part of this and to be more involved with CEA,” said Gupta, who also serves on CEA’s Human & Civil Rights Committee, Resolutions Committee, Ad Hoc Poverty Task Force, and other groups. “Teachers don’t always get the recognition they deserve, but being a part of the CEA community is a great way of feeling connected and supported.”
Larissa Opramolla, a North Haven math teacher whose three children are all UConn alums, attended with her husband, John, a retired educator.
“We love supporting our kids’ school and our union,” she said.
One of a large group of Manchester educators who made a day of it, high school math teacher Shawn McClory said, “This is a great event for teacher camaraderie. Who doesn’t like food and football?”
“And…,” Rocky Hill High School chemistry and biology teacher Tim Walsh joked, “we don’t have to cook!”
Like a lot of fans at Saturday’s game, Cooperative Education Services (CES) special education teacher Donna Tomasko—a 36-year veteran teacher and CES 2021 Teacher of the Year—is a season ticketholder. “When I saw that CEA was hosting a tailgate, I knew I had to come early. It’s nice to see other teachers and have fun.” CEA Secretary Stephanie Wanzer, a fellow CES teacher, was one of many familiar faces.
Berlin elementary school speech pathologist Rosemary Goodwin agreed. “We come to this game every year, but it’s a treat to be able to meet up with other teachers.”
“It’s a good time, mixing it up with teachers in a different environment,” said Scott Minnick, who teaches eighth-grade French in Glastonbury. “I also enjoyed talking with CEA’s new leaders.” Joining Minnick were his daughter and her newest friend, a foreign exchange student from Italy.
A family affair
For many attendees, CEA Teacher Appreciation Day is an opportunity for family time, a way to meet fellow educators and union members, and a chance to reunite with classmates and friends.
“I love meeting up with members from all over the state and getting to know them better,” said CREC Education Association President Lisa Cordova, who teaches at Glastonbury/East Hartford CREC Magnet Elementary School.
Fellow union leader Neil Shilanksy, president of the East Hampton Education Association, attended CEA’s first-ever teacher tailgate tent in 2018. “It was so much fun,” he said. “I came with family and met up with friends, and I’m glad to be back to do it again.” (More recently, CEA’s tailgate celebrations were cancelled due to inclement weather and COVID.)
“We’re reliving our college days!” said Bethany Education Association President Kimberly Wolcott and colleague Rebecca Grayeb, both teachers at Bethany Community School.
“We’re a whole family of UConn alums, and we’re season ticketholders,” said Cathy Jones, a preK-5 teacher at Woodrow Wilson School in Waterbury. “When I saw the email from CEA inviting members to a teacher tailgate, I said, ‘That’s my union!’”
The first-year teacher recalled, “Last year, I was probably the oldest student teacher on the planet, but I’m a teacher now, and I’m loving it!”