More than 400 teachers with one to six years of classroom experience attended the CEA New Teacher Conference at the Mohegan Sun Conference Center on April 6 to get training to help them be the best teachers possible and improve student performance.
CEA President Sheila Cohen welcomed the teachers to the conference and reminded them of the importance of their profession.
“There are those who want to make the P in public schools stand for something else. They are self-proclaimed prophets who want to make profits and privatize our public schools. But we know that the P in public stands for professionals,” she told the educators. “We must reinforce that we are professionals, and that we became teachers to make a difference in the lives of our students.”
Cohen said CEA has always been considered a labor union and a professional association. And in order to facilitate change, we are also a political organization. “We are always advocating on your behalf, protecting your rights and those of your students. Because so much of what we do as teachers is dictated by state mandates we must also be a political organization and share our knowledge and experience with legislators. Policy affecting public education should be made with teachers, not without them,” she said.
CEA is raising public awareness of teachers as professionals in a new CEA TV Ad. Cohen said the teachers in the ad are professionals who devote their lives to helping students learn and grow.
The theme of professionalism was echoed by keynote speaker Dr. Joe Martin. The lifelong educator, author, and motivational speaker ignited the audience with his passion for the teaching profession by sharing his own personal experiences growing up in one of the toughest crime-ridden, drug-infested ghettos in Miami. He spoke about how teachers changed his life and can change the lives of the students in their classrooms.
Martin discussed how to motivate any student, regardless of his or her aptitude. “Instead of telling students directly what to do, we need to offer them assistance and ask, ‘How can I help you?’”
Martin said teachers can become complacent after surviving the first few years of teaching and are at risk of getting into a comfortable teaching rut that stunts their professional growth and development.
Sometimes teachers don’t even know how much of a difference they are making in students’ lives. “Even on their worst days, teachers can be a ray of hope for students and brighten their day,” he said.
Matthew Brunetti, a fourth-grade teacher at Uncas Elementary School in Norwich, agreed. “He was inspirational and got me thinking about more ways to motivate and help my students.”
The conference featured nearly two dozen workshops on a wide range of topics from teaching in a changing Cyberworld to co-teaching and even a session on pension issues for early career teachers.
“The conference was great,” said Amanda Johnson, a first year teacher at Danbury High School. “I will be co-teaching next year and the session on being better together gave me some good tips to take into the classroom.”
Kara Ingalls, who teaches language arts at East Hartford Middle School, says the conference gave her an opportunity to meet with other first year and more experienced teachers to gain valuable insight on the profession. “It’s a great opportunity to speak with other educators and to learn from them. You get to see other new teachers and how they handle situations and it’s very useful,” said Ingalls.
Amanda Peterson has been teaching math at Danbury High School for four years. She’s attended the conference in the past and urges her colleagues to attend. “It’s fantastic,” she said. “The price is right, there are great lectures and sessions, and you learn so much information that helps you in the classroom and prepares you for what’s ahead.”