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Promoting Professional Learning that Empowers Growth

The diversity of our membership is reflected in both the changing demographics of America and the nation’s student population. A wide array of backgrounds, experience and perspectives empower growth and learning. 
Fostering acceptance was the centerpiece of a course offered as part of the “back-to-school” convocation for members of our AFT Connecticut-affiliated Hartford Federation of Paraeducators. Our state federation’s PD coordinator organized a special presentation on supporting undocumented students during a two-day series of professional learning workshops at the district’s Bulkeley High School.
The session (above) was led by Connecticut Students for a Dream (C4D), grassroots immigrants rights advocates who have partnered with our unions on numerous public policy and education-related initiatives. 
“It was really interesting to hear firsthand from students who are themselves undocumented,” said Marta Shepard, a para at Bulkeley HS. “I didn’t realize how their status affects so many different aspects of their lives — and how hard it is to legally emigrate to this country. Our job is to support the whole student. We can only do that if we first understand their day-to-day challenges,” added Shepard, a local union steward and liaison to AFT Connecticut’s Legislative/Political Action Committee (LPAC).
Shepard’s comments refer to the importance of paras being well-prepared to support all kinds of different students from a variety of backgrounds and with different needs and challenges.The presentation outlined the realities of living as an undocumented student, the barriers faced when trying to legally navigate the immigration system and how education personnel can support them.
Click here for additional photos of C4D’s presentation.
In addition to diverse jobs, backgrounds, and cultures, our unions are also made up of members with a mix of distinct skills. For those who enjoy sharing their talents, our professional development programs allow the opportunity to pursue their passion and contribute their knowledge. 
Click here for our previous report on presentation opportunities with our PD program.
Although a career educator, Hartford Federation of Teachers member Jackie Ryan enjoys the occasional challenge of teaching adults rather than children.
“The goal is to empower our colleagues to create Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) that work for them and their students,” said Ryan, a teacher of English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). “Too often we hear that as educators we’re not given autonomy to set our own goals. These courses are designed to help union members construct objectives based on their actual student population. They’ll also learn how to effectively advocate for what they’ve chosen with their administration,” added Ryan, a delegate with her local union who works in three district schools.
Ryan and colleagues Kathleen Cho and Susan Miller have led workshops for fellow union members on SLOs over the past year. The team attended training with our AFT national to prepare for the series, which continues with a course geared for new teachers scheduled next week and a follow-up session in early October.
Click here for photos from the standard course Ryan, Cho and Miller last month presented.
The SLO-focused workshops are but a few of the many professional development opportunities available to members of affiliated local unions in the coming months. The state federation is also currently seeking input to help leaders better meet members’ career advancement needs over the next year with a series of online surveys.
Certified PreK-12 educators, Paraprofessionals and School-Related Personnel (PSRPs) and healthcare professionals are asked to take less than two minutes to complete and share their responses by September 24.
Click here to complete the educators’ PD survey.
Click here for the survey for PSRPs.
Click here for the healthcare professionals’ survey.

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