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Teachers Hit the Pavement for Colleagues, Children in Need


Team CEA runners are ready to go!


October 14, 2018

Braving brisk temperatures and morning showers, teachers and their families came out yesterday morning to support CEA's charitable arm, the Connecticut Education Foundation (CEF), now in its fifth year as an official charity of the Eversource Hartford Marathon. CEF raises money to help children and educators facing extraordinary personal hardships and provides scholarships for students planning teaching careers.

"For Team CEF, this is more than just a race," says CEA Vice President and CEF President Tom Nicholas. "This is a way of teachers coming together with their energy, talents, and strengths to lift each other up and support a great cause."

Teachers not only trained and participated in events ranging from the 5K to the full marathon but also distributed food, water, and snacks, and served as race monitors. Over the years, some CEA members have traded their aprons for racing bibs, while others have moved from the race course to concessions.

CEA Secretary Stephanie Wanzer, CEF President and CEA Vice President Tom Nicholas, and Darien teacher Katy Gale at the starting line for the half marathon.

Suffield teacher Mark Janick has done both. After volunteering as a family, Janick, his wife, and their young daughter ran for the second year in a row.

"We wanted to beat our time from last year," says Janick. "We like to set goals as a family and work together to reach them."

Janick, who is president of the Suffield Education Association, promoted the event to his colleagues and posted it to his local association's website.

Better together

Also rounding up colleagues was CREC Glastonbury/East Hartford Magnet School teacher Hiroe Vestergaard, who organized two relay teams of five teachers each.

CREC Education Association President Lisa Cordova, who ran the relay with one of the two teams, said, "This is our first year, and we decided to support CEF as a way of supporting CEA—because we are sticking with our union. We don't need to come in first to feel like we won. The prize is running with the funniest and most dedicated coworkers you could ever ask for. We hope to finish—that's all we need to accomplish."

Vestergaard, who saw the relay as a great team-building and morale-boosting activity for her colleagues, planned the running routes and coordinated practice runs for the 10 teachers every Saturday morning.

"It's fun to do something to promote healthy activities," says Vestergaard. "It's been a great excuse to get together every week."

"Hiroe has definitely been our cheerleader in this process," says Cordova. "She has made us feel like we could do it, even when I was sure I couldn't. At 51, I had never run more than 50 feet! Hiroe has trained me to be able to run five miles—and by run, I mean jog. And by jog, I mean jog-walk-jog-walk! Still, I could see my progress week after week. On our last run, I was able to keep up with the group. That was quite an accomplishment."

Cordova adds, "We hope to show students that when you work as a team, you can accomplish anything you want. And it is so much fun to work together for a goal."

The CREC Glastonbury/East Hartford Magnet School teachers even had matching shirts made to run the relay.

Manchester educator Laurie Pels-Roulier, who has run the Hartford half-marathon several times, is one of the veteran athletes participating this year. Although she has run for a number of years consecutively, 2018 marked her first time running for Team CEF.

"Many of my colleagues also ran, and I would tell all teachers to participate and volunteer," the high school counselor says. "I like to run, and it's important to do what you love and what brings you joy."

Many hands make light work

Aside from the thousands of runners filling the streets, the marathon would not be possible without a strong corps of volunteers who manage everything from meals to race logistics.

CEA members and their families supported runners by volunteering in the food tents.

Westport Education Association President John Horrigan, a librarian at Coleytown Middle School, has been volunteering with his wife for the past four years. "We've worked in the food tent, and it's great to be there to welcome the runners with some healthy food and drinks," he says. "Last year, I worked at one of the checkpoints, helping runners get on shuttle buses to get to the race start. That was also very interesting, because we got a different view of the race."

Horrigan says it's gratifying to see teachers participating in the marathon both as runners and volunteers. "Teachers are important members of their community, and it's meaningful for our students to see us setting an example, giving our time toward a worthwhile cause, and being models of community action and responsibility."

UConn Education Student Katie Grant says, "As CEA Student Program Chair, I think volunteering is a great opportunity to get out here and celebrate everything CEA does, and give back to the community."

CEA Student Program Chair Katie Grant and member Adam Lynch, both UConn students, volunteered at the race for the first time.

Cathy Kapa, who teaches at Illing Middle School in Manchester, has been actively involved in the Hartford Marathon Foundation for 25 years. She ran the half-marathon for 14 of those years and the 5K last year, after having spent many years coaching student runners.

"This year, I'm sidelined due to running injuries and surgeries," she says, "but I felt compelled to support the marathon and CEF." She is one of Team CEF's teacher volunteers.

"As a product of public education and an educator of 38 years, this is a great opportunity to promote public education through our union, CEA. Public education builds strong communities and allows every child the opportunity to have a free, quality education; academics, arts, and technology; and the foundation to learn in a safe, culturally diverse environment. As educators, we are responsible for preparing students to be the leaders of the future."

Still time to donate

While the race is over, the fundraising campaign continues.

"Every donation is greatly appreciated and goes a long way toward helping students and teachers," says Nicholas.

Donations are being accepted through the end of October. Checks made out to CEF should be mailed to
Tom Nicholas, CEA, 21 Oak Street, Suite 500, Hartford, CT 06106.

Who benefits from CEF?

Established in 1991, the nonprofit Connecticut Education Foundation consists of four funds:

  • The Edward J. Boland Fund provides relief for active CEA members facing extraordinary or catastrophic personal circumstances, such as a serious family illness, unforeseen disaster, or other financial crisis.
  • The Children's Fund supplies basic necessities such as clothing, food, medicine, eyeglasses, and hearing aids for children in need.
  • The Ethnic Minority Scholarship Fund supports qualified ethnic minority high school seniors intending to enter the teaching profession in Connecticut.
  • The DiGiovanni Future Teachers Scholarship Fund supports children of CEA members who plan to follow their parents into the teaching profession.

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