Author Archives: Woody

UConn, Central Students Are 2024 Alma Exley Scholars:

Students from the University of Connecticut and Central Connecticut State University have been chosen as Alma Exley Scholars for 2024.

Brianna Bobo is pursuing a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction at the University of Connecticut. She has a bachelor of science degree from UConn in secondary education with a concentration in social studies and history.  She is a graduate of Conard High School in West Hartford, Connecticut.

Brianna Bobo

Andrew Amaya of New Britain is a student at Central Connecticut State University. He is a secondary education major with a concentration in social studies. He is a graduate of New Britain (Connecticut) High School.

Andrew Amaya

Growing Endowment

The program was able to offer two scholarships again this year because of the growth of the endowment at the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain. The growth has been achieved thanks to substantial contributions as well as solid investment gains.

A selection committee of respected educators chose the recipients from among applicants from educator-preparation programs in Connecticut. The selection committee was impressed with the potential of all the applicants. All were deserving and worthy of the scholarship. We need to keep growing the endowment so that we can award more scholarships in the future.

  • Woody Exley

Future Teachers Step Up To Leadership

Six students have been inducted into leadership positions in the Connecticut Educators Rising program, which encourages high school students to aspire to careers in education.

Educators Rising is a “Grow Your Own” program that provides a clear educational pathway to students to increase teacher diversity and teacher quality.  

Educators from the University of Bridgeport (UB), Educators Rising, and the Connecticut State Department of Education were on hand to congratulate the future teachers.

From left, Dr. Patricia Mulcahy-Ernt, Mary Glassman, Dr. Shuana Tucker, Sinthia Sone-Moyano, Woody Exley, Sherrod Cuttino, Mimi Colón, Jacquelin Rybnick, Alivia Afable, Danyelix Echevarria-Figueroa, Isaias Rodríguez Sánchez, Dr. Danielle Wilken, Tricia Putnam, Dr. Khaled Elleithy, and Dr. Tonya Chacón.

EdRising Student Cabinet

Inducted into the Connecticut EdRising Student Cabinet in a ceremony at the University of Bridgeport were:

  • Danyelix Echevarria-Figueroa, New Britain High School, President
  • Alivia Afable, Waterbury Career Academy, Vice President of Engagement
  • Mimi Colón, New Britain High School, Vice President of Communications
  • Jacquelyn Rybnick, Stamford High School, Vice President of Service
  • Isaias Rodríguez Sánchez, New Britain High School, Representative At-Large
  • Sherrod Cuttino, Central Connecticut State University, Representative At-Large in the recently established college-level Aspiring Educators program.

Varied Responsibilities

In their positions, the students will have a variety of responsibilities in ensuring the success of the EdRising program in their schools. This will give them the opportunity to cultivate their leadership capabilities while advancing the program.

The EdRising program enables high school students to take courses related to education careers and to serve in internships in local schools. They can also earn university credit by taking courses at their schools taught by certified university teachers.

Congratulating the aspiring teachers were:

From the University of Bridgeport: Dr. Danielle Wilken, President; Dr. Khaled Elleithy, Dean, College of Engineering, Business, and Education; Dr. Patricia Mulcahy-Ernt, Director, School of Education; and Dr. Tonya Chacón, Coordinator of the Elementary Education Program.

From the Connecticut State Department of Education: Sinthia Sone-Moyano and Dr. Charles Hewes, Deputy Commissioners; Dr. Shuana Tucker, Chief Talent Officer; and Mary Glassman, Workforce Diversity and Educator Effectiveness Officer.

Also participating was Tricia Putnam, Connecticut State and Regional EdRising Coordinator for PDK International, whose mission is to eliminate the teacher shortage by supporting EdRising programs across the country.

Establishing Pathways

UB’s Dr. Mulcahy-Ernt hopes that some of the students will enroll in the educator-preparation program at the University of Bridgeport. “EdRising is having an impact by establishing pathways for future educators,” she says. “It’s introducing them to the teaching profession and enabling them to step up to leadership positions.”

Dr. Chacón notes that students can accelerate the speed of their professional journey by taking university courses while in high school. “We’re creating pathways for young people who are interested in becoming educators,” she says. “We want to foster that, and we want to nurture that. Educators Rising is the perfect way to do that. They can earn university credit at a nominal fee.”

Inspirational Program

“EdRising inspired me to become a teacher,” says Isaias Rodríguez Sánchez, a student in New Britain. “The program has helped me to develop the skills that I need to become an educator. It has helped me to strengthen my public speaking skills and my social skills. The EdRising club at school is like a family.”

EdRising has chapters in many states. In Connecticut, the program is one of many initiatives advanced by the state Department of Education to address the teacher shortage as well as the dearth of educators of color.

Nearly 500 students are participating in high schools in Ansonia, Bristol, Danbury, East Hartford, Farmington, Groton, Hamden, Hartford, Manchester, Naugatuck, New Britain, New Haven, New London, Norwich, Stamford, Torrington, Waterbury, and Windsor. More than 80 percent of the participants are students of color, which is important since only 11 percent of educators in Connecticut are persons of color compared to over half of the students in public schools.

Alma Exley Scholar Wins Prestigious Fellowship

Tamashi Hettiarachchi, who is in her second year of teaching chemistry in West Hartford, Conn., has been selected for a prestigious national program that supports early-career science and mathematics teachers in their efforts to develop teaching expertise.

Tamashi Hettiarachchi, right, invited Mehreen Pasha, a medical student at UConn Health,
to talk to her students about careers in medicine.

Intensive Five-Year Program

The Knowles Teaching Fellows Program is an intensive, five-year program that provides financial support in a variety of ways. The program provides stipends during the summer and funds for professional development and also enables teachers to buy classroom materials and join professional organizations. Fellows can also gain graduate credit for work in the fellowship.

Ms. Hettiarachchi, whom we honored in 2022, joins a network of more than 500 Knowles Teaching Fellows in 34 states and the District of Columbia who are committed to improving science and mathematics education.

In total, fellows are eligible to receive more than $50,000 in financial support over the course of the five-year fellowship. Fellows can apply for grants to pursue efforts that will have a positive impact on education in their own classroom and beyond.

UConn Graduate

Ms. Hettiarachchi received our scholarship when she was a student at the University of Connecticut. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry education and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from UConn before taking a position teaching 11th grade chemistry at Hall High School.

“I am so honored and grateful for this opportunity and recognition,” she said. “I hope to use this funding to meet the needs of my students and provide my students with new opportunities in chemistry.

“My pedagogy is rooted in love and joy in the classroom. I strive to ensure that all of my students feel they belong in a science classroom.

“As a teacher of color, I recognize the need to diversify the field and hope that I can aid in that process.”

Ms. Hettiarachchi is advisor to the Future Educators of Diversity Club at Hall High School and a building representative in her local union.