More than 1,500 teachers and staff from Hartford Public Schools gathered in Hartford on Thursday for an annual convocation, or pep rally, meant to motivate and inspire the staff ahead of the upcoming school year.
“I hear the marching band and everything and I’m like, 'Oh my God, this is so exciting,'” said Patricia Vera, a first-grade teacher at Dwight Bellizzi Asian Studies Academy in Hartford.
“Once you get here, it’s like wow. You see all the people, you see everyone from different schools that you’ve taught with,” said Yasmin Ithier, a second-grade teacher at West Middle School in Hartford.
The convocation is one of the few times the entire district gets together and Ithier said she feeds off the energy and carries it with her into the new school year.
“I’m like a really enthusiastic teacher so seeing other people who are enthusiastic and excited gets me pumped to get going,” said Ithier.
Ithier also said she’s looking forward to things returning to normal this year with masks being optional and having the option to pair the students together in groups.
This is Vera's first year teaching in the Hartford Public School District. The district recruited her from Puerto Rico.
“For them to throw a pep rally for us, getting us excited for Monday is amazing,” said Vera. “I’m so excited. Coming from Puerto Rico, we didn’t have any of this.”
Vera went through weeks of training and will teaching a dual language program to second graders. That means they will spend one half of the day learning in Spanish and the second half in English.
“I’m looking forward to working with my students. A lot of my students have big needs, they come from very different backgrounds,” said Vera.
Despite the district’s efforts to recruit teachers and offer incentives like hiring bonuses, the superintendent said the district is still about 92 teachers short and has to rely on substitutes.
“It is a real challenge because every single one of our students deserves to have a certified and highly qualified experienced teacher in the classroom," said Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, the superintendent of Hartford Public Schools.