One Team, Our Team: Yard Goats Partnership and Heartfelt Speeches Make for Dynamic 2017 School Year Kickoff

One Team, Our Team: Yard Goats Partnership and Heartfelt Speeches Make for Dynamic 2017 School Year Kickoff

Hartford Public Schools officially welcomed back its teaching staff at its annual Teacher Convocation  celebration at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, home of the Hartford Yardgoats.This year, the event centered around the theme of One Team, Our Team. Teachers had an opportunity to hear Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez’s ideas about how to prepare for the coming academic year. (Dr. Torres-Rodriguez is pictured above with YardGoats mascot, Chew-Chew.)
The morning included performances by the Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy’s student marching band, and Carlos Arzuaga and Edwin Rodriguez, students from Sanchez School who led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.  Student Yasley Rivera from Kinsella introduced the Suprerintendent, and student, Evan Barrow, from Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy sang the National Anthem.
Teachers heard from Superintendent Torres-Rodríguez ; Mayor Luke Bronin; Craig Stallings, Chairman of the Hartford Board of Education; and Sonia Turner, 2017 Hartford Teacher of the Year, a teacher at Annie Fisher STEM Magnet School who received a standing ovation. The Kinsella Dance Troupe entertained between speakers with a graceful dance performance. And Global Communications Academy’s Elite Percussion wrapped up the morning’s event, bringing down the house with their dynamic drumming.
Global Communications Academy’s Elite Persussion, led by their director, Brandon HuBrins, right, also a School Social Worker and Administrative Intern, gets ready to enter to arena.


 Elite Percussion kept the beat during the “One Team, Our Team” cheer, and  gave an an inspired performance that ended the event in a truly upbeat way.


The HMTCA marching band plays for 1,700+ teachers.


Anthem singer Evan Barrow (left) and Sanchez students, Carlos Arzuaga and Edwin Rodriguez .

Performing students (left to right) Evan Barrow, Carlos Arzuaga and Edwin Rodriguez, and Yasley Rivera from Kinsella .


Sanchez School in the house!
Simpson-Waverly teachers get selfie with Dr. Torres-Rodriguez!
Teacher of the Year 2017 Sonia Turner prepares to speak (left,) with Mayor Luke Bronin.

The Kinsella Dance Troupe with their teacher.

To watch the Convocation 2017 on CT-N, click here.

Please read Dr. Torres-Rodriguez’s speech below.

Hartford Public Schools Convocation Speech, by Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, Ed.D., August 28, 2017

Good Morning! Thank you all for coming!  A warm welcome to our distinguished guests: Mayor Bronin, State Reps Council members, Chairman Craig Stallings, all of our Board of Education Members, HFT President Andrea Johnson, Teacher of the Year Sonia Turner and our many business, philanthropic and community partners, staff, fellow teachers and administrators.

Thanks to our student from Kinsella, Yasley Rivera, for her words of encouragement and recognition for our teachers.

We have among us today our teachers, support staff, Central Office staff, community, business and civic partners. How fitting to be here in this stadium as our hometown team – the Hartford Yard Goats – gets ready to finish their first season here in Hartford. We join together this morning to celebrate that — at Hartford Public Schools — we too are a TEAM – we are One Team, Our Team! I feel privileged to have the opportunity to address all of you today and to thank you for all that you do.

As we begin a new school year, I want to thank you — not only for what you do each day – but also for the example you set for your students.
Because in addition to your dedication in teaching the children of Hartford — you are also their mentors– and their role models – and their leaders.
I wonder how many of you stop to think — when you go to work each day — how many young people look up to you — and depend upon you for guidance and support. You nurture your students’ learning — and you encourage them — and you inspire them.

Each of you works as part of a remarkable network of educators and staff and partners and supporters devoted to inspiring and educating young minds. And what possible endeavor could be more important and enduring — than guiding and inspiring young minds?

So for me, the start of the school year is always an exciting time – and a time of optimism — and a time of new beginnings.
It’s a time to consider for a moment all the success that we have accomplished together – but it’s also a time to think more broadly about how much more we can do — and need to do. This year — even more than in recent years – we start the new year during a time of change and challenges. I know there is some uncertainty – the uncertainty that comes with change.  There are challenges around our school system’s budget — and uncertainty about district consolidation. Challenging times like these can bring fear and insecurity. At times like these, our ability to communicate and to trust is tested. As I’ve said before: change will only happen at the speed of trust. At a very basic level, we must have trust to move forward with confidence. And for trust to be possible, leaders have to be transparent and lead by example. Communication is never more important than in challenging times.
That’s why leaders must be open and honest. We are all leaders – teachers, staff, community partners, supporters, families. And as leaders, we must trust ourselves and each other as we work together on behalf of our students and families.

I want you to know that I will lead by example. I am personally and professionally committed to you and to ensuring that we transform our school system – so that we can achieve our goals on behalf of our students. As I have mentioned many times – this requires a district-level redesign – a recasting and rightsizing of our school system which is LONG overdue. Over the coming months, in collaboration with our schools and communities, we will continue our discussions to develop a plan that represents the right configuration for this school district. It is vitally important that we create this master redesign plan for sustainability:
• So that our precious education dollars can be invested in students
• So that every school is well-resourced and high-performing
• And so that our daily work can be focused on students and student outcomes.

I hope you – teachers, staff, business partners, community leaders and stakeholders – will be able to trust that this process – once complete – will result in a better, stronger Hartford Public Schools system for our 20,538 students. We can only do this together – we are One Team – Our Team!
Teachers in the classroom and those who support our students in schools, in the community and at home, you know that the future of our youth is in our hands. As leaders we know that the future of Hartford is in the hands of those students.  And their destinies will be shaped day by day in our classrooms over the next school year. So for all of us and for all of them, the future truly is right now.
Every minute is precious. Every step forward counts.

We have beautiful students. Some come to us wounded and with needs — for emotional support, for learning support and other help. And we respond to our students – with optimism and love.

TEACHERS! YOU! EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU along with our staff, partners and supporters– are the instruments of this love and optimism…you are the school system’s greatest assets and I have the utmost respect for you and for the work that you do on a daily basis. Each of you has the power to transform individual lives – as well the lives of whole families and communities. Because when children are learning, when children have resources to be successful in life, when children are happy and safe – guess what happens? – communities are positively transformed.

A Big Shout Out and THANK YOU to our teachers. Thank you for being a teacher. Thank you, in particular, for being a Hartford Public Schools teacher. As teachers who have committed your careers to making a positive difference in the life of a child – you are in fact leaving your mark on not just one student, not just a dozen students but entire families and, indeed, communities.

While you might not think every day about your impact, I do.
You as teachers are there to help students shine.
You are there for the child who needs a caring adult in their life.
You are there – every day — for students on their best days and when they face challenges.
You help to open up minds and unlock potential.
You help guide both academic and personal growth.
You provide knowledge – and you enrich your students’ experiences — by helping them make more meaningful connections with what they are learning each day, in your classrooms.
You know education is not just about reading and writing and math — and it is not just about paving the way for career pathways.
It’s also about teaching a way of approaching the world, a way of being involved with the world and the issues that matter most.
Life is challenging and unpredictable, and as teachers — you help to prepare students for that as well.
I cannot think of a higher, more worthy calling than to be called, simply, “Teacher.”

Achieving difficult goals is hard work. We don’t expect to hit a home run every time we step to the plate. We don’t need to pitch a perfect game every day, or a no-hitter. Those would not be realistic goals. Sometimes, we might even have to settle for a strikeout or a double play. Many times we will have to just focus on doing our best and staying in the game.

Look at all of you! You are resilient, you are brilliant, you are dedicated – how lucky we are in Hartford, Connecticut that we can come together as teachers, staff, partners and supporters – coming together as One Team, Our Team – all sharing the one goal of supporting each and every student!
THIS TEAM– ONE TEAM – Our TEAM– bound together — by the common goal of educating children. With this common goal and our shared belief in the power of education, we are truly transforming lives! As teachers – you are leaders by virtue of the positions you hold — entrusted with society’s most precious responsibility, the education of our youth.  And you are joined here today by many people who support you and share in the responsibility of shepherding our youth into the futures they deserve.

Tomorrow we begin all over again! May you have a great school year, and keep and mind that we are One Team, Our Team.
You are not in this alone, but you can make a great difference in many student lives. Again, thank you very much for your hard work and dedication to the children of Hartford — and thanks for being here today!


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