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Diversity in education is the focus of CT teachers conference

Isaias Rodriguez Sanchez with New Britain High School Educators Rising talks with panelist Eileen Marquez, New Britain teacher and 2023 teacher of the year in that district.
Maricarmen Cajahuaringa
/
Connecticut Public
Isaias Rodriguez Sanchez with New Britain High School Educators Rising talks with panelist Eileen Marquez, New Britain teacher and 2023 teacher of the year in that district.

Connecticut’s schools have work to do to diversify the teacher workforce and encourage inclusivity. That’s according to people who gathered Friday at an educators conference in New Britain.

Eileen Marquez, a teacher leader at New Britain High School, stressed the role of leadership in making inclusivity happen.

"I’m a strong believer that leadership starts from the top,” Marquez said. “Uplifting our students and recognizing how powerful their voices can be making sure that they feel welcomed, and their cultures celebrated instead of quieted.”

Isaiah Rodriguez, a student at New Britain High School, emphasized the importance of educators reflecting the diverse backgrounds of their students.

“In order for a teacher to connect with their students, is to look like them, to have the same experience, speak like them,” he said. “When I see a Hispanic teacher, whether male or female, I connect with them.”

Dana Quinones Claudio, an education student at Tunxis Community College, said having diverse teachers is invaluable.

"Kids should be able to step into a classroom and see people that represent where they're from," she said. "Just seeing that they have the same skin color, the same hair texture, because there will feel like they're part of a community."

The Educators Rising Conference featured students and state education officials.
Maricarmen Cajahuaringa
/
Connecticut Public
The Educators Rising Conference featured students and state education officials.

The Educators Rising Conference featured various state education officials, administrators and other educators. Topics ranged from hiring practices and recruiting a diverse workforce to nurturing the next generation of educators.

Current and future educators renewed their commitment to fostering inclusive environments, pledging within their workshops to continue advancing diversity in education, ensuring every student feels valued and represented in diverse learning settings.

The conference comes as a study by the School and State Finance Project shows that Connecticut’s public school districts arehighly segregated, and that districts with more students of color tend to have fewer financial resources.

Districts with more BIPOC students often also serve students with more learning needs, such as multilingual learners or from low-income families, the report says.

Aside from diversity and inclusion, mental health challenges were top of mind for some at the conference.

Crystal Davis is a counselor at Bristol Public Schools.

"We're seeing mental health take a big toll on students and how it relates to them even being able to attend school, their grades, and even socializing with other peers," she explained.

Elizabeth Morales, a school social worker in Torrington, emphasized parental advocacy in promoting diversity within schools.

“Parents, they are their child's biggest advocate and continue to push for diversity, not only amongst their teachers, their Board of Ed members," Morales said. "The last thing they want is an angry parent. Advocate. Representation matters."

Maricarmen Cajahuaringa is a journalist with extensive experience in Latino communities' politics, social issues, and culture. She founded Boceto Media, a digital Spanish-language newspaper based in Connecticut. Maricarmen holds a Bachelor's in Social Work from Springfield College, and a Master's in Journalism and Media Production from Sacred Heart University. As a reporter for Connecticut Public, she is dedicated to delivering accurate and informative coverage of the Hispanic/Latino population in the region. Maricarmen is an experienced and passionate journalist who strives to bring a voice to the stories of her community.

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