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Demonstrating Solidarity in Professional Development

Several of the numerous sessions held over the past two months have been led by members of affiliated unions. Each presented on particular topics of interest, with two tailored for PreK-12 educators and health professionals and one applicable to all active and retired members. 
 
“These courses are an opportunity to share our stories and learn from each other,” said Megan O’Toole, RN (right), a registered nurse in the Intensive Care Unit at Danbury Hospital. “It takes worksite peer-to-peer collaboration to a whole new level,” added O’Toole, who also serves as our affiliated Danbury Nurses Union, Unit 47’s first vice president.
 
O’Toole in December led a brand new course on how to identify and overcome “compassion fatigue” for fellow health professionals. The issue impacts all facets of caregivers’ worklives, from job satisfaction to emotional and physical health, and can lead to decreased productivity and increased turnover.
 
“The strength, camaraderie and solidarity I felt as a presenter was both empowering and rewarding,” she said.
 
Click here for photos of the workshop O’Toole led.
 
When professional learning is led by peers from similar backgrounds, contexts and experiences, participants are more likely to “buy-in” to the process and incorporate new knowledge into their practice. These no-cost courses are an opportunity for members to strengthen their relationships with one another and our union, and an indispensable tool for broadening support among fellow professionals. 
 
“Professional learning is a great example of how our union truly provides a support network,” said Jackie Aviles, a veteran paraeducator at Noah Webster Micro Society Magnet School in Hartford. “The latest workshop I attended really demonstrated how we value every member’s success on the job,” added Aviles, who also serves as co-president of our Hartford Federation of Paraeduators.
 
Aviles’ comments reflect the recognition that members of our affiliated unions are more than part of the labor movement; they are also employees who play important roles in our communities. The course on “achieving success with difficult students” she attended in December epitomized that fundamental value which underpins all of AFT Connecticut’s professional development efforts.
 
Click here for photos of the workshop, presented by New Britain Federation of Teachers union leader Dan Blanchard.
 
“Our paraprofessionals look forward to more workshops offered that can enrich our skills and help us better serve Hartford’s diverse student population,” Aviles said.
 
Professional development led by members serves not only to provide opportunities for job-based learning, but also for taking on new union leadership roles. Our rank-and-file have great expertise and posses deep passion when it comes to lifting up their co-workers. Presenting workshops is another way to help members share that energy, experience and wisdom with a wider audience.
 
An example is the popular course on the basics of Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet program first held last spring and twice presented by a State Vocational Federation of Teachers union member. 
 
“Teaching Excel is unique because there’s something for everyone,” said Tommy Viola, the head of the Information Systems Technology department head at Platt Technical High School in Milford. “I get to help our members learn skills beneficial to both their professional and personal lives. Some want help with their personal budget, while others want to calculate student data,” added Viola.
 
The session Viola led last month drew members from every one of our federation’s constituencies; teachers, school support staff, higher education faculty, health professionals, state employees — even retirees.
 
Click here for photos from the Excel training workshop in January.
 
“It’s rewarding to be able to help so many different kinds of workers,” added Viola.
 
Due to the overwhelming number of RSVPs for the January session, an additional Excel training workshop has been scheduled for next week — once announced, it quickly reached capacity.
 
Members of affiliated unions who have been trained as trainers assist in the development of workshop curricula and present to their colleagues at both the state and local levels. Those interested in learning more about taking on this leadership role are encouraged to contact AFT Connecticut Professional Development Coordinator  Jennifer Benevento.
 
Click here to send email to Benevento.
 
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