Educators from every corner of the state came together at CEA’s first-ever teacher tailgate party this weekend at UConn football’s homecoming game. More than 100 teachers, friends, and family members enjoyed breakfast, music, a fan photo booth, and games of KanJam, cornhole, and ladder golf.
“Teachers do so much, and we’re happy to support them,” said Marie Gull, field marketing manager with NEA-endorsed insurer California Casualty, the event’s sponsor.
“It’s very exciting to be here and support the Huskies and support my union,” said Cooperative Educational Services teacher Donna Tomasko, who proudly sported a bright red UConn sweatshirt as a way of also championing teachers’ #RedforEd movement.
Also in #RedforEd was CEA President Jeff Leake, who said the combination of picture-perfect weather and members who enjoy camaraderie outside the classroom made for a great turnout.
“We’re fortunate that our members love to connect with one another socially and professionally,” said Leake. “Teaching is a labor of love. It’s both difficult and rewarding, and we like to provide opportunities for our members to learn from each other, lean on each other, and sometimes just relax and unwind. This was one of those opportunities, and we are so glad teachers took advantage of it. We hope to host more of these kinds of gatherings in the coming year.”
After last year’s homecoming tailgate plans were canceled because of a nor’easter, Charles Marenghi was among the first to sign up for this year’s event. “I was glad to see it was rescheduled this year,” said the Naugatuck Teachers’ League vice president, who attended with his wife, Gayle, a math interventionist and UConn alumna.
Old Saybrook special education teacher and building representative Jessica Hanover said coming to the tailgate was a natural extension of her involvement with her local and state education associations.
“I’ve gotten more involved with my union at various levels,” she said. “Besides being a building rep, I’m now on the negotiations committee and have done two rounds of negotiations. If I’m going to tell my members to be active in their union, I need to do the same.”
“Coming out to CEA events is great, and I’m always looking for opportunities like this one,” said Brookfield teacher Donna Marie Mirabilio, who was joined by her son, a UConn sophomore.
Mirabilio, who regularly attends the CEA Representative Assembly and Summer Conference, said, “When I come to events where I meet and talk to other teachers, I find out I’m not alone with the issues. The feelings are the same everywhere, we face many of the same problems, and we’re often able to pull together and find solutions to common challenges. Talking to teachers from other districts, I always come back and tell my colleagues, ‘We can do this,’ and ‘We can try that.’”
Region 15 seventh- and eighth-grade history teacher Denise Perugini came in full fan gear and—as a former UConn cheerleader—later joined the sea of blue and white on the field.
“It’s always good to be here to cheer on the Huskies, and it’s great that CEA arranged this morning gathering for teachers before kickoff,” Perugini said.
Woodbury math teacher and building rep Tim Zeno agreed. “I put flyers in the teachers’ lounge at my school letting my colleagues know about this outing. It’s nice to be able to socialize with other educators without the pressures of the workday and the classroom.”
“You can’t beat it,” said Bloomfield social studies teacher and building rep Ross Siegel, who took advantage of CEA’s discounted homecoming game tickets and free tailgate party to socialize with friends. “We have great tickets and a great day for this event.”