Individually, teachers are champions of quality education. But sometimes the challenge can be to help them see how much more they can accomplish collectively—rather than individually— to accomplish their goals.
It’s a challenge that teacher Marcia Ferreira does not take lightly. In fact, she and others on the East Hartford Education Association (EHEA) leadership team have amassed a team of ten educators to participate in CEA’s Summer Leadership track on organizing.
“One of the things I want to accomplish during my training is to learn how to best communicate to my members. I want to illustrate for each and every EHEA member how much we share a common purpose. Just to name a few priorities: We all care about the conditions of learning and teaching. We all need time to collaborate with colleagues as we deal with all the new demands placed upon us. We all need a strong voice to address new standards and new high-stakes standardized tests,” Ferreira said.
Ferreira, a math coach, is proud that her team of ten includes teachers who have no prior experience with union activism. “It’s exciting, and it represents how much EHEA wants to be inclusive defined by an atmosphere of trust. EHEA members should celebrate together as well as plow ahead—even against the odds—when that is necessary,” Ferreira said.
Expanding parental engagement is another of Ferreira’s priorities. Community outreach will be on the agenda in her training, and she expects to share what she learns with her colleagues. “We want to build bridges with the community, and parents will be the centerpiece of our efforts in the immediate future, she added.
Annie Irvine was one of the ten East Hartford teachers who participated in the CEA Summer Leadership Conference. The EHEA vice president said it’s a great opportunity to refine her leadership skills, so she can help organize her colleagues, especially new teachers.
“We need to work together to get all of our members involved in the union. Most new teachers are not thinking about the big picture. They are focusing on their students and their day-to-day classroom activities, but we know they have potential beyond the classroom, we just need to focus on ways to get them involved.”
Irvine continued, “We have selected a diverse group of teachers to attend the conference—from union leaders to those who have never been involved before. They all have something different to offer and we hope they will learn, understand the role of the union, and share their experiences with their colleagues.”
One of the most important areas Irvine says must be developed is the EHEA’s communication infrastructure.
“We have an important election coming up and we need to inform teachers of all the option, and get them the information they need to help elect pro-education candidates,” she said.