Empowering New Teachers

New teachers were part of a panel discussion at the 2017 Summer Leadership Conference on ways of better engaging new CEA members.

"It's empowering to be a part of the union," says Sarah Bajger, an East Hartford elementary school teacher. Like many early career educators, Bajger, who has been teaching for five years, is looking to build her skills and knowledge around student behaviors and crisis response. And she's looking to experienced educators for practical advice.

Bajger was one of more than 500 new and seasoned educators at CEA's 2017 Summer Leadership Conference earlier this month. The three-day conference featured 30 different workshops and mini sessions on a wide range of topics, including student debt, teacher evaluations, educator autonomy, culturally competent schools, adult learning theory, engaging members in political campaigns, trauma-informed practices, legal rights in the special education process, Section 504, and more.

"It's important to stay educated," Bajger said, "to learn how to take appropriate action, and to know to see your concerns are shared."

Four years into his career, Torrington teacher Michael McCotter, attending Summer Leadership for the second time, was looking for as much guidance as he can get.

"I came for the entire conference, and I liked the in-depth sessions offered on days one and two," McCotter said. "But I also like dabbling in different areas, so the mini sessions are great. They're enough to give you the tools you need."

Michael McCotter listens in on strategies for handling difficult discussions—with parents, administrators, students, and colleagues.

"New teachers bring a lot to the profession," said Sarah Meshanic, a teacher for 23 years at E.O. Smith School in Storrs. "They have a positive impact on those of us who have been around a long time, because they ask a lot of questions that cause us to reflect on our own practices, challenge our thinking, and also validate what we're doing. With new teachers, we have multigenerational friends."

Others noted that new educators also bring enthusiasm and a comfort with technology that are a tremendous benefit to their colleagues.

CEA offers a variety of professional development and networking opportunities for new teachers. See upcoming programs.

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