Connecticut’s neighborhood public schools are true cornerstones of our democracy, welcoming students from every country, speaking different languages, and providing them with a true pathway for success. Connecticut teachers have opened their arms, their hearts, and their classrooms to ensure that all students take pride in their heritage, and know that their classrooms are places where they are welcomed and valued.
That is the core message of a new public awareness advertising campaign sponsored by the Connecticut Education Association and the National Education Association.
The TV, radio, and online ads underscore the vital role of teachers in our public schools. The ads remind the public that teachers welcome students from every background and help them learn, grow, and pursue their dreams with passion.
“Despite the ongoing national political rhetoric designed to divide us on immigration and racial issues, our public school teachers are the unifying force that reflects the true sentiment of the American public,” said CEA President Jeff Leake. “Our dedicated, passionate teachers value social justice and diversity and want to share with the public the best that our public schools have to offer: opportunity and the pursuit of the American Dream.”
There are nearly 35,000 English learners in Connecticut public schools, coming from homes that speak more than 143 different languages. “Our public schools are filled with teachers who recognize each student’s true potential and provide the encouragement, inspiration, and support to help all students achieve, and pursue their dreams,” added Leake.
Connecticut has some of America’s poorest cities, which many new immigrants call home. The destruction caused by Hurricane Maria last year brought nearly 2,000 students to Connecticut from Puerto Rico, many of whom do not speak English. At least 18 public school districts received more than ten students from Puerto Rico, while the state’s largest and poorest districts, including Waterbury, Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven, opened their doors to hundreds of students from Puerto Rico. Now, one year later, nearly all of them (1,800) are still here.
The ads showcase the importance of diversity in our public schools and emphasize that, “Every child has something amazing to offer. We learn together and from each other, and teachers inspire all students to reach their dreams.”
The ads were shot in both English and Spanish at the Hopeville Elementary School in Waterbury, and they feature a diverse group of students from that school community, including fourth-grade student Gary Edwards, whose mother, Lisa, praises teachers for helping all students feel welcome and accepted.
“Teachers take the time to get to know every child, and they nurture them emotionally and academically,” said Edwards. “They have compassion for our children, and they bring a caring heart to their profession.”
Hopeville fourth grade student Jennivette Cortes says, “My mom doesn’t speak English, but my teacher helps her understand so she knows what’s happening at school.”
Six Connecticut teachers are featured in the ads, including 2019 Connecticut Teacher of the Year Sheena Graham and Marlborough Elementary School teacher David Wasserman. Four teachers from Waterbury Public Schools are highlighted in the ads, including two educators from Hopeville Elementary: fifth- grade teacher Alison Kirchberger and bilingual teacher Alicia Brandes; health and physical education teacher Ricardo Gibson from Reed Elementary School; and English/language arts teacher Melissa Vargas from Rotella Interdistrict Magnet School.
“The teachers in the ads and the thousands of dedicated, committed teachers across the state recognize their students’ needs and help them succeed and reach new heights every day,” emphasized Leake.
“Public school teachers appreciate their diverse communities and cultivate those communities,” said Wasserman.
“Connecticut public school teachers educate all students. No one is left out,” said Kirchberger. “We know that diversity enriches our schools, and we work hard to build safe, welcoming classrooms for all students.”
“We really embrace our students’ cultures,” said Vargas, “and encourage them to be themselves and show who they are, not shy away.”
Leake added, “As Connecticut residents watch and listen to our CEA ads, we expect they will be reminded that our schools have a proud history of joining both immigrants and American-born students from a range of backgrounds into one citizenry.”
The TV ad ends with the final message, “Connecticut Public School Teachers: Uniting Us Every Day.” The month-long campaign will air on Connecticut’s major television networks, cable channels, radio stations, and online news sites, as well as Spanish television and radio stations, beginning on February 27.
The Connecticut Education Association is Connecticut’s largest teachers’ union, representing active and retired educators across the state.