“You are the future of CEA,” Suffield teacher Mark Janick told teachers gathered this morning at the CEA New Teacher Conference at Mohegan Sun Convention Center. The annual conference for teachers with six or fewer years in the classroom helps educators learn how their union supports them in improving their teaching practice.
“Being part of the union has made me a better teacher,” Janick said. “I would not have gotten nominated for Teacher of the Year at my school this year if not for my involvement in this union and everything I’ve learned.”
CEA President Sheila Cohen welcomed the teachers saying, “In most instances you will never know the difference you made, but know that you are making a difference in a child’s life.”
New Teacher Committee co-chairs Janick and Orange teacher Katie McDonald introduced a panel of new teachers who shared their own experiences making a difference and getting involved with their union.Fourth year Bolton teacher Tom DiMauro said he didn’t have much first-hand knowledge of unions before he started teaching, and his local president invited him to get involved with his local Association and CEA. Now he stresses the importance of their union to his colleagues
“Being part of CEA is so important for me as a professional because of the voice I have at the state and national level,” DiMauro said.
Putnam teacher Marianne Byrne said she first got involved with her local Association and, after seeing what teachers were able to accomplish working together at the local level, she became involved with CEA at the state level.
“I’m on CEA’s legislative commission now and I love being a part of that,” Byrne said. “I can help to make changes on a much broader scale that benefit students and other teachers. My involvment with CEA has been really empowering.”
Fifth year teacher Samantha Swartz said she really appreciates her union’s support after beginning her career in a school that lacked a union and seeing how that lack of representation affected her. Now that she teaches in the Waterbury Public Schools Swartz said she highly values the community of teachers that her union provides.
“When it comes to union involvement you can get your toes wet or jump right in,” Swartz said. “I encourage you to listen to everyone today and see where you can fit in.”
After the panel discussion, teachers attended a variety of workshops on topics from teachers and the law to teacher evaluation and classroom management.
Norwich teacher Lucian Varela who attended the classroom management track said, “As a first year teacher, one of my biggest struggles is creating a well-managed classroom environment and consistently establishing routines and procedures. Going to workshops like this is very helpful for finding resources, books, and websites to use if I’m struggling.”
“I’m always trying to grow in my teaching practice,” said Heather Evarts who attended the teacher evaluation track along with fellow Cromwell first grade teacher Nicolette Monarch. “I hope to use these techniques back in the classroom.”
“I came today because I’m always striving to be the best I can be as a teacher,” Monarch said. “I get knowledge I can use to help me grow from others in the teaching profession.”
“It’s part of my job to always be learning,” said Stratford teacher Brian Vignati.
Evarts added, “The conference has helped rejuvenate me and I’m now more excited to get back in the classroom.”