CEA’s efforts to diversify the teaching profession are receiving national attention via an NEA Today article that features Bridgeport teachers and discusses CEA’s recent campaign to interest young people in teaching careers.
Bermary Maria, a bilingual kindergarten teacher at Bridgeport’s Cesar Batalla School, led an effort this summer, funded by an NEA grant, to connect with Bridgeport Education Association members. The BEA wanted to hear from educators of color about past hiring practices and recruitment efforts that were successful.
Maria says she got involved because she saw the value in developing a more inclusive group of educators under the union fold.
“We need representation,” she says. “I feel there are times when certain decisions are made, and they’re not made with all students in mind. If you have people in the union who represent the student population and are advocating and fighting for us, I think that’s super important.”
Maria was responsible for providing support and resources for her team, who made phone calls, sent text messages, and held Zoom video calls.
By having one-on-one conversations with rank-and-file members, organizers were able to see patterns of best practices that have been abandoned. For example, they learned at one time the district’s HR department partnered with the local union to recruit educators of color.
Moreover, members shared their relief in knowing they weren’t alone with their frustrations or satisfactions when it comes to the district and were eager to continue the work that is necessary and take on leadership roles.
“It was a ten minute survey,” explains Maria, “but a lot of them wanted to continue to talk. The conversation went on for another 45 minutes. Most of them said, ‘If you need more…or if you ever need a panel, call me.’”