A large banquet room buzzed with conversations about how to not just survive — but thrive — in the early
years of a teaching career.
One teacher asked colleagues sitting at a table
with her how they handled challenging special
education plans. Teachers at another table focused on
the best ways to spark a love of reading in students.
Others swapped their “embarrassing teacher
moments” and “best teaching moments.”
This was the revamped look of the MTA’s
annual Just For New Teachers conference, which was
held Dec. 4 at the Sheraton Framingham Hotel and
The MTA New Member Committee, which
organizes the event, did away this year with
traditional plenary and keynote-speaker formats.
Instead, the committee opened the conference with
a lively question-and-answer session with members
that was moderated by Michael Milton, who used his
time at the microphone to quiz panelists Rose Bell,
Andrea Pires, Gene Reiber and Melanie Levine.
The panelists tried to highlight “the stuff
you don’t learn in college.” Pires, for example,
described the unexpected bonds that teachers form
with students. Reiber reflected on how rapidly
educators progress in their careers and advised the
approximately 200 attendees to “enjoy the moment.”
The conference did offer its traditional array of
workshops aimed at meeting the needs of educators
within their first five years of practice. Participants
delved into classroom management techniques and
student-engagement strategies with peers from across
The lunch between workshop sessions was all
about conversations and connections, a practical
demonstration of New Member Committee Chair
Laura Vago’s reminder that “we’ve got your back.”
“We will listen to your successes and
frustrations, answer your questions, hug you, share
our best strategies, tell you the stories of the times
things went really well, and tell you the stories of
the complete disasters we survived,” Vago said in
remarks during the luncheon.
MTA leaders acknowledged the challenges
that new educators face and reminded them how
important their work is.
MTA President Barbara Madeloni spoke about
the joy of teaching and how it is under assault from
the campaign to standardize and privatize public
“You’re here because you are driven by
something that is possible,” Madeloni said. “Don’t
let anybody tell you that a vision is not essential.”
MTA Vice President Janet Anderson told the
audience that she has never regretted her decision to
become a teacher. She quoted from the novel “The
Prince of Tides,” written by Pat Conroy, saying,
“There’s no word in the language I revere more than
‘teacher.’ My heart sings when a kid refers to me as
his teacher, and it always has. I’ve honored myself
and the entire family of man by becoming a teacher.”
Even as a number of new teachers opened up
about challenges presented by everything from
lesson planning to finding the right mentor, Vago
and other members of the New Member Committee
assured them that everything tends to work out.
“We know that you are going to be the excellent
future leaders of our profession,” Vago said. “We
know that you will prove to the world why it is that
teaching is the noblest of professions, worthy of care,
support and defense within an increasingly hostile
To view more photos of the 2015 JFNT
conference, visit massteacher.org/jfntphotos.
April Allegrezza, a music educator and mentor to new teachers in the Milton Public Schools,
commented during a question-and-answer session at the Just For New Teachers conference.
Photos by Scott McLennan
As they ate lunch, educators heard words of
advice and inspiration from their colleagues.
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