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Meriden High School Honors Nadine Rosa

Nadine Rosa has been named Teacher of the Year at Oliver H. Platt High School in Meriden for 2021-2022.

Nadine Rosa

Students ‘Bring Me Joy’

“I put my heart and soul into teaching, and it’s wonderful to be appreciated and recognized,” she said. “My students are the reason I get up every morning. They bring me joy. They make a difference in my life, and if I can make a difference in their lives, it will benefit not only them but all of us in the community as well.”

Ms. Rosa, who grew up in Meriden, began her career at Platt High School in 1995 as a paraeducator. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Southern Connecticut State University. The Alma Exley Scholarship Program honored her in 2004 when she was pursuing her master’s degree at the University of Saint Joseph, and she became a special-education teacher in 2007.

At least two other Alma Exley Scholars have been named Teacher of the Year at their schools, Desi Nesmith, when he was teaching at Mayberry School in East Hartford, and Ollie-Rubiah Williams Oliver, a teacher at the Farmington Valley Diagnostic Center.

Platt Principal Dan Corsetti presented Ms. Rosa with the award in a ceremony at which he unveiled a banner recognizing her as Teacher of the Year. He also read laudatory comments from her colleagues who had nominated her for the honor.

Nadine Rosa with the banner honoring her as Teacher of the Year

Promoting Equity

Ms. Rosa is a member of the Platt Equity Team and represents her school at meetings of an affinity group for educators of color in Central Connecticut. She is also active on the Ninth Grade Team, which supports students as they make the transition from middle school to high school.

As an active member of the Positive School Climate Club, she has taken the lead in posting huge hallway displays for the celebration of Hispanic Heritage, Black History, LGBT History, Women’s History, and Diversity Month. Teachers said the displays helped to create a positive climate in the school during the pandemic.

Display in recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month created by students and teachers led by Ms. Rosa

The display for Hispanic Heritage Month features an image of U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, a former Meriden teacher and administrator. When Secretary Cardona was interviewed by a Hartford TV station, he arranged for the interview to be conducted in front of the display.

Secretary Miguel Cardona being interviewed in front of the Hispanic Heritage display

Financing Giveaways

As part of her efforts to promote a positive school climate, she used her own funds for giveaways to students such as T-shirts (which she made), books, and water bottles. Subsequently, the school system established a small budget to continue the giveaways.

Being named Teacher of the year has resulted in recognition for Ms. Rosa beyond the school. The Meriden Record-Journal interviewed her during Hispanic Heritage Month and produced a live Facebook interview.

One of the perks of being named Teacher of the Year is a reserved parking space in front of the school.

“I’m honored to be named Teacher of the Year,” she said, “and I’m grateful for this recognition from my colleagues.”

UConn Students Chosen as Alma Exley Scholars

Two UConn students have been chosen as the 2022 Alma Exley Scholars. They are Saraya Lewis, a junior majoring in secondary English education, and Tamashi Hettiarachchi, who is pursuing a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. She majored in chemistry education as an undergraduate at UConn.

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

Saraya Lewis

Ms. Lewis, a graduate of Stratford (CT) High School, is active in UConn’s Leadership in Diversity (LID), a student-led support group which promotes equity, justice, and diversity in education and in the community. She has studied the impact of the lack of diversity among teachers in Connecticut and how this has affected the way students of color train to become teachers.

“During this semester, especially in my Multicultural Education, Equity and Social Justice class, there was an emphasis on the lack of educators of color,” she said. “We learned that the biases of administrators and teachers toward young children of color severely impact the number of individuals of color who enter the field of education.

“These discussions were extremely relatable as I had only two Black teachers during my academic career before college. The conversations would always tie back into how we as educators can create safe spaces for our students of color in a society that is not always welcoming.”

As part of her LID activities, she participated in campus workshops on the school-to-prison pipeline and critical race theory. Sponsoring these sessions were the Connecticut Education Association, the UConn’s Neag School of Education, and UConn Community Outreach.

Ms. Lewis has extensive experience as a tutor for elementary and secondary students, and she is a team captain in Huskython, which raises funds for children at Connecticut Children’s hospital.

As a member of the UConn Future Educators club, she participated (pre-Covid) in STEM and literacy events at high schools in Eastern Connecticut. “These events gave us experience in school environments prior to applying to Neag,” she said. “For literacy night, we read to elementary-aged students in different classrooms. For STEM night, I led math activities with secondary students.”

The Neag faculty chose her for the 2021 Neag Hearst Scholarship in recognition of her outstanding achievements in the teacher-preparation program.

Tamashi Hettiarachchi

Ms. Hettiarachchi, a graduate of Glastonbury (CT) High School, has been active in efforts to improve science teaching and to bring issues of social justice into the science curriculum. She is collaborating with teachers in Connecticut and New York to identify justice-centered science teaching practices as part of a project funded by the National Science Foundation.

She has lent her talents to the Mentor Teacher Collaborative, which is increasing access to high-quality science teaching in Connecticut. She also hosts a podcast called NGSNavigators, which offers high-quality professional development to educators.

She collaborated with UConn faculty in the development of a curriculum based on the complex biological systems in a nest of two million army ants. In connection with this project, she was the lead author of a peer-reviewed article published in the National Science Teaching Association’s Science Scope journal for middle-school teachers. In a related effort, she co-designed and co-led a professional-development program for middle-school science teachers.

As president of Leadership in Diversity, she has strengthened the organization’s mission of supporting and encouraging future teachers of color. She received the Outstanding Senior Women Academic Achievement Award in May 2021 in recognition of high achievement in research and service at UConn.

These outstanding students join a remarkable network of Alma Exley Scholars honored over the past 26 years. Our honorees are making a difference as outstanding teachers and distinguished educational leaders at the local, state, and national levels.

Educational Pathway for Future Teachers of Color

Connecticut is seeing results from the Teacher Residency Program, which the state launched in 2019 to increase educator diversity.

Gov. Ned Lamont recently met with state and local officials at an elementary school in New Britain to celebrate the program, one of numerous initiatives in Connecticut to bring more teachers of color into the state’s classrooms.

New Britain Superintendent Nancy Sarra welcomes Gov. Lamont and other state officials to Northend Elementary School.

“I think our schools are great. . . because we celebrate our teachers,” he said. “We love our teachers. We let our teachers teach, and we show the respect we need to generate and attract the next generation of teachers. “

Pathway to Teacher Certification

The Teacher Residency Program provides a pathway to teacher certification to individuals with bachelor’s degrees, many of whom are working in schools in non-certified roles, such as para-educators.

These individuals take college courses for 18 months (summer and evenings) and work for one year side-by-side with a mentor teacher while earning pay and benefits. They become eligible for a full-time, elementary teaching position in a partner school district upon completing the program and certification requirements.”

45 Residents for Next Year

The class of 2020 had 11 residents, including Blacks, Latinos, and mixed-race individuals. The Class of 2021 had 14 Black and Latino residents. The class of 2022 will have 45 residents, including Blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, whites, and mixed-race individuals.

“The data says all children in this country learn better when they’re taught by a diverse teaching population,” said State Senator Douglas McCrory. “So, if we want to be one of the best states in this country or educating our children, we need to follow the data and make sure we diversify our classrooms.”

The Teacher Residency program is planning to place 45 resident, pre-service teachers in four to six schools in 2022-2023.

Last year the State Department of Education met its five-year goal for persons of color to make up 10 percent of public-school educators. But state leadership wants to make more progress as students of color account for nearly half of the state’s public-school students.