After several years of Zoom-only professional development, nearly 400 CEA members are back together today and tomorrow for in-person summer learning and networking with colleagues from around the state at CEA’s Summer Conference at Foxwoods.
CEA President Kate Dias welcomed teachers, reminding them that, even as attacks on educators and curriculum escalate, CEA is always there for them.
She encouraged teachers to expand their leadership from the classroom to becoming more involved in their local associations. “Your local leadership needs your voices. And at CEA, your voice and your story matter.”
Dias explained that it is members’ stories that helped passed crucial children’s mental health legislation this year, as well as laws prohibiting dual teaching and guaranteeing 30-minute lunch periods for teachers.
She reminded teachers that most state and federal lawmakers as well as local officials have no experience working in public schools, so teachers need to own their expertise and share their stories. “When we all speak up, together our stories change hearts and minds,” she said.
As a union, CEA is a community of educators who stand together and support one another.
Keynote speaker Kim King, a Mansfield art teacher and Connecticut’s 2022 Teacher of the Year, reflected on the numerous communities she has sought out that have enriched both her personal life and career. “I’m a Korean adoptee, and so I have also found a community of support in Connecticut and across the country of Korean adoptees.”
As the only art teacher at the elementary school where she works, King said she’s had to go outside her school to find a community of art teachers, and it’s only recently that she has found a community of other Asian American educators.
“When I walked into the first in-person meeting of our 2022 national cohort of state teachers of the year, I met six other Asian American and Pacific Islander educators, and my mind was blown because, in my entire teaching career, I’d never met another Asian American educator,” she said. “And as a student, my entire career from preschool to graduate school I never had an Asian American teacher or professor. So, to walk in and find this community was so impactful, and it shows that representation absolutely matters.”
Teachers need room to learn and grown, she said, and they do that best when the have the support of a community of like-minded educators. Early career educators can feel like the shoes they have to fill are too big, but that’s how it’s supposed to be, because teachers need that room to grow, she said.
In fact, teachers at all points in their career need room to grow, and she encouraged educators to be gentle with themselves. “We are all growing, which means we will often be out of our comfort zones.”
King told attendees that events like the CEA Summer Conference are perfect for finding and building community. “I hope today you find some community, you find some like-minded individuals,” she told them.
She continued, “It’s so important to find a community, and you, like me, you may not find it in your school. So, look outside of your school. There are organizations and groups like CEA that are here to help support you.”
Sometimes the people around us can bring us down instead of supporting us. King asked teachers, “Are you surrounding yourself with people who value you? That’s my question to you. Prioritize building relationships and networks. It will positively impact those around you, especially your students.”