Virtual colloquium

Madeline ScharfReporter

On Friday, April 23, the College of Education hosted a virtual colloquium. Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent of the Miami-Dade County school district, and Jahana Hayes, Connecticut’s 5th congressional district representative responded to questions.

Gregory Bernard, Director of Alumni Relations, introduced the event. The program was intended to be informative to future educators.

“We want to address the challenging times,” said Bernard, “while also keeping focus on social justice.”

The discussions dived into the challenges posed in the last year, as well as how the world of education has changed because of it. Life has not been easy for Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

As a young man who grew up in Mexico, and immigrated unaccompanied at 17, Carvalho was motivated to come to America.

“I came to this country to study. I came to this blessed land,” said Carvalho. Having immigranted, Carvalho knows the value of diversity. “The diversity of our nation is what makes us great,” said Carvalho.

His school district has made strides to further establish equality in schooling. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a lot of unforeseen consequences. Students needed to learn virtually. This created difficulty in low-income houses, where the proper technology could not be afforded.

“Technology really became an indispensable reality for students,” said Carvalho.

His district did all it could to both prepare and adjust to the changes due to the pandemic. Many electronic devices were given to students unable to afford them, and Wi-Fi hotspots were established so they may have access to the internet.

Inequity in school districts is an ongoing problem, brought to light more with the struggles of last year. From the pandemic to the protests over the summer, inequality was highlighted.

Superintendent Carvalho strives to continue promoting equality in his district, saying, “there is ongoing professional development to deal with equity.” Connecticut’s 5th congressional district is represented by Jahana Hayes, a former Southern graduate.

Hayes also won National Teacher of the Year in 2016. Her switch from teacher to politician was not an easy one.

“I never wanted to be a politician I still don’t,” said Hayes, “I want to be a teacher.”

But Hayes said her experience as National Teacher of the Year changed her perspective.

“I realized how much politics effect the classroom,” said Hayes.

She then decided to transfer into politics. When discussing politics that would affect the education system, “they need the voice of an educator in the room,” said Hayes.

Hayes discussed a few things she is working on in Congress. “The top thing I am doing at the federal level is funding I.D.E.A,” said Hayes.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, is a law put in place for those who require special education assistance. The law is described on their website as “ a law that makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation and ensures special education and related services to those children.”

Superintendent Carvalho seconded Hayes’ support of the act.

“What are we saying as a country when we do not help the most vulnerable?” questioned Carvalho.

The progression of school systems continues to be a main topic both presenters discussed. The pandemic has helped in an odd way for the uninformed. Before, many were unable to see the struggles of many students or understand the inequality in learning.

“These problems have long existed,” said Hayes.“Never again can someone say they don’t see the struggles.”

Because with the students working from home, adults in their lives are now more aware of issues in the classroom that may plague students.

There may be hope for the future. Superintendent Carvalho sees positivity from the hardships of last year. The hope that this new normal can help students flourish and grow is sustaining educators across the nation.

“What sustains me is seeing a strong light at the end of the tunnel,” said Carvalho. “Seeing vaccines, paying closer attention to protocols. A new normal is being established.”

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