Future Educators Enhance Skills, Give Back to Community Thanks to CEA Student Program

Future Educators Enhance Skills, Give Back to Community Thanks to CEA Student Program

CEA Student Program members from around Connecticut spent a day and a half cleaning, repairing, and improving Bassick High School in Bridgeport earlier this fall.

November 13, 2015

Over 100 future educators from around Connecticut will be giving up their Saturday tomorrow to come together for professional learning and networking opportunities at the CEA Student Program (CEA-SP) Fall Conference. CEA-SP members have been busy planning the conference, but it's only one of a variety of projects the group has already undertaken this fall.

Members say that coming together with fellow students through the CEA-SP provides crucial support and helps prepare them for the classroom.

"The CEA Student Program has given me so many phenomenal opportunities—it provides exactly what was missing from my teacher prep program," said CEA-SP State Chair Megan McCauley, a student at Western.

"It's nearly impossible for colleges to provide those same opportunities for community outreach, leadership, professional development, political involvement, and networking with education students at other schools. I'm a senior and, after four years being involved with the CEA-SP, I'll be coming out of college with far more than a typical student."

McCauley will be one of the keynote speakers at tomorrow's conference. She'll be talking about how education students can be leaders and take ownership of the teaching profession both before they're in classroom and once they begin teaching.

CEA-SP members active CEA members and education professors are leading conference sessions tomorrow on a variety of topics from reworking homework to TEAM to Integrating Music into the Common Core Curriculum.

One of the many bulletin boards that CEA-SP members put together for Bassick High School.

Patrick Skerker, co-vice president of the CEA-SP UConn chapter, will be leading a breakout session on inclusivity and gender equality that will focus on creating school environments that are welcoming to transgender students.

Skerker described joining the CEA-SP as "one of greatest decisions I've made while in school." He said that the UConn chapter and the whole statewide program have been like a family for him while at college.

Skerker said that other CEA-SP members "have always been there to support me and push me personally and professionally. The level of support given to individuals is incredible, especially given the size of the program. You don't get that in other organizations at all."

McCauley agreed that the support the program offers is key. "The CEA-SP is made up of six chapters at six different Connecticut colleges and universities, but we're always talking across schools. We help each other out, not just with club-related issues, but with teaching questions and much more. I think that support of one another will carry over to our involvement as active CEA members once we being out teaching careers."

Giving back

The support the future educators receive through the CEA-SP makes them eager to give back and let others experience what that support feels like, and this fall they were able to achieve that with a community outreach project at Bassick High School.

Community outreach is an important component of the CEA-SP, and members demonstrated their commitment to public education by helping clean and make repairs to the Bridgeport school.

CEA-SP members sorted through a classroom full of books so the school can resell them to the publisher.

Bridgeport public schools faces serious financial challenges and the student members were able to make repairs and improvements to the school building that the district could otherwise not afford. Funding for the school improvement project was made possible with funds from CEA and a competitive grant from NEA.

The CEA-SP members spent a day and a half taking on a variety of much-needed cleaning and repair jobs. They painted hallways and offices, designed and painted three murals, washed windows, painted welcome signs, redid all of the bulletin boards on one floor of the school, and more.

Skerker said he helped organize and clean out a large classroom that was being used for book storage so that the books could be sold back to the publisher. He said that participating in the project made was a way for him and other CEA-SP members to let the Bridgeport students know that "someone out there does care. Someone's there for them and wants to ensure that they can take pride in their school building."

McCauley said that many of the public schools that education preparation programs work with are located in middle class communities and that it was important for CEA-SP members to meet and work with students and staff in one of Connecticut's urban centers. "We walked away with a real sense of gratitude and empowerment as teachers," she said.

Marjorie Coble, an assistant principal at Bassick, got emotional as she thanked the CEA-SP members for their work and explained how much it meant to the school.

"I was amazed at the number of CEA-SP members willing to give up a Saturday and volunteer to help with the myriad projects that had been worked out between them and the school staff," said Bridgeport Education Association President Robert Traber.

Traber continued, "Truly the CEA-SP members are young teachers in training who will go the extra mile for their students when they become teachers. They clearly demonstrate what we at CEA understand it means to be a teacher."

Marjorie Coble, an assistant principal at Bassick High School, said, "The level of commitment, enthusiasm, and willingness of all the volunteers was very humbling—and contagious. The volunteers have the heart of a teacher: service to others, spirit of collaboration, commitment, and dedication to task. I felt like every stroke of a brush, packing of boxes, mopping floors, and cleaning lockers was their gift to our students."

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