“You are in the trenches every single day, and you are all heroes and heroines,” CEA President Sheila Cohen told the nearly 400 educators and future educators attending CEA’s New Teacher Conference Saturday. The teachers were at the Mohegan Sun Conference Center to learn strategies to help improve their teaching practice and raise their students’ achievement.
CEA President Sheila Cohen welcomed the teachers and reminded them of the important work they do.
“You inspire and dedicate your lives to teaching the future generation of Americans,” said Cohen. “You are the bridge which our kids cross from failure to success, and that’s huge. Don’t ever sell yourself short on that.”
Cohen said two of her former students attended the conference. “I am proud of my former students who are now teachers and making a difference in the lives of their students. We all make a difference, and we must never forget that.”
The new educators appreciated the opportunity to attend a conference that’s specifically dedicated to helping them. “This conference empowers us, as new teachers, to stand up and talk to our colleagues from across the state who are dealing with the same issues,” said Bolton High School science teacher Tom DiMauro. “It’s beneficial to hear how other teachers are handling their classroom challenges and how they are reaching out to get involved in the union.”
Keynote speaker Maury Koffman, a member of the NEA Executive Board and a millennial himself, urged his young colleagues to become empowered and join the collective voice to make a powerful statement and a difference in their profession.
“We need to get involved to ensure that students have adequate resources to learn and that teachers have the resources they need to teach,” he said. “Good working conditions for you create healthy, clean, and safe learning environments for your students.”
Teachers said they were happy to see a young professional as the keynote speaker.
“He was so inspirational,” said Vernon teacher Maggie Soucy. “He made us want to go out and speak out for our profession.” Her colleague Becky Mears agreed. “Koffman made it sound very doable — that we could all get involved today and feel comfortable about it.”
“He empowered me and gave me more of an appreciation for being in the union,” said DiMauro. “I have a better understanding of what CEA strives for — fighting for teachers’ rights and students. There’s a lot to it that I didn’t realize.”
“I am already involved in the union,” said Bolton High School Latin teacher Paul Giblin, “But many of my colleagues are not as engaged. It’s nice to see that the union is actively connecting with younger members.”
The conference featured a dozen workshops on a wide range of topics from Beginning Teacher Issues to Teachers and the Law.
East Hartford teacher Kara Ingalls said she was “blown away” by all the new information she learned in her session — The Smart Way to Learn: Integrating Smart Boards into Daily Instruction.
“I learned so many new ways to use the Smart Board,” she said. “I am looking forward to going into my class and utilizing all the new tools in my lessons.”
Mears and Soucy, both special education teachers, said they were impressed with the high-quality sessions. They both attended: The Rights and Duties of Educators in the Special Education Process.
“Learning directly from a lawyer about issues involving special education and state laws was helpful and informative,” said Mears.
“Our session was informative and the lawyer answered questions and offered advice about specific issues that we face in the classroom,” said Soucy. “It was so helpful that I want to come back every year.”