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Teachers as Professionals: Raising Public Awareness in New TV Ad

Connecticut teachers filmed a new CEA TV ad focusing on making teachers meaningful partners in collaborative decision making. Back row (left to right) Lia O'Connell, East Hartford; Greg Furlong, Bridgeport; Blaise Messinger, Cromwell; Cathy Mazzotta, Manchester; and Chris Jones, Coventry. Front row (left to right) Faith Sweeney, Greenwich; H. Sam Ortiz, Manchester; Ashley Bell, Orange; Luanelly Iglesias, Waterbury; and Maggie Barkin, Regional District #5.

Focus is on teachers as meaningful partners in collaborative decision making

Policy affecting public education should be made with teachers, not without them.

That's the outspoken viewpoint of teachers from across Connecticut who are featured in a new CEA TV public awareness ad that began airing this spring. From teacher Maggie Barkin, a veteran, to teacher Lia O'Connell, a relative newcomer to the profession, there's no doubt about it: It's time to make teachers meaningful partners in school improvement.

In fact, that's the tag line of the new spot that was filmed on March 23 in Newington. More than a dozen teachers participated in the filming. The teachers in the ad are men and women who have devoted their lives to helping students learn and grow. As professionals, they come in early, stay late to mentor and tutor students, purchase school supplies using their own money, and spend their evenings planning and grading papers. They want to do everything they can to provide the best possible education for their students, and that includes helping make the decisions that impact their students' educational opportunities.

Connecticut Teacher of the Year Blaise Messinger, who works in Cromwell, is in the TV ad, and he doesn't hesitate to talk about teacher professionalism. He said, "Professional teachers know they are dedicated to the education and success of every child. The responsibility is ultimately to that child's progress, regardless of the impediments to progress." He continued, "Teachers need to be regarded as professionals because we are the agents of change in the classroom. We have the experience, the knowledge, and the dedication that can truly reform education."

According to CEA, too often, loud pundits, misguided politicians, elite reformers, and insensitive administrators undermine teachers' professionalism by dismissing teachers' expertise and devaluing their insights from the frontlines of public education. Sometimes this is intentional. Sometimes it's not. Nevertheless, it's a practice that works against high-quality decision making and educational excellence.

CEA President Sheila Cohen said, "Elected officials, administrators, and communities must work with teachers to elevate the teaching profession by finding ways to ensure teachers' professional sense of responsibility through shared decision making. Teachers are doing everything they can to prepare their students to compete in the global economy, but, too often, they are marginalized when their education, training, and professionalism are ignored in vital decision making."

Greenwich teacher Faith Sweeney explained, "It's time to make teachers meaningful partners in school improvement because teachers are the ones who implement instruction, reflect on their practice, and try to help all students reach their fullest potential. Without teacher input, policymakers will create obstacles that prevent students from receiving the quality education that teachers work so hard to deliver every day."

Waterbury teacher Luanelly Iglesias echoed that sentiment. She said, "Being a professional means someone who is reliable, dedicated, concerned, respectful, and committed. It's someone who cares about his or her job and seeks opportunities to grow and be better each day."

East Hartford teacher Lia O'Connell added, "It's important that teachers be regarded as professionals because we need to be respected and listened to about educational issues since we are on the front lines."

Manchester teacher H. Sam Ortiz agreed. "The profession of teaching requires a team mentality. Successful administrators realize that involving faculty and staff is a key component of any school improvement plan. It is the teacher who has the most influence within a school, and to not involve that professional is an error that is not easily remedied," he said.

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