Published May 17, 2021
Katherine Ericson

With the onset of a worldwide pandemic last year, our worlds were turned upside down. At LEARN, the regional educational service center that supports school districts across southeastern Connecticut, we found ourselves facing new challenges and new opportunities. I am writing this commentary to publicly applaud the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut’s willingness to support solutions to new problems and invest in exciting new ventures for the individuals living in eastern Connecticut.

Last fall, with the opening of schools and the implementation of a unique hybrid model of instruction, LEARN realized that staff lacked equipment to support their new Zoom classrooms. Through the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut’s generous “Neighbors for Neighbors” grant program, LEARN was able to secure funding to ensure that each LEARN classroom teacher had headphones with attached microphones to improve the quality of their communication and instruction. Supporting real solutions, the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut impacted over 1,400 students who attend the LEARN schools.

The Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut again stepped up to the plate with a financial contribution to support a new workforce initiative that LEARN is bringing to southeastern Connecticut — the “Connecticut Teachers’ Residency Program.” This pipeline program is a proven approach that accelerates the development of a dedicated and diverse certified teaching staff to work with and for children in school districts across the LEARN region. This support will help the region shepherd 12 new diverse elementary teachers into the profession by the fall of 2022. Supporting this type of equity-based innovation truly enhances the quality of education in southeastern Connecticut, while changing the economic trajectory of these potential new teachers.

On behalf of the LEARN Board of Directors, the LEARN educators, and the districts in the LEARN region, I want to express our appreciation for the efforts of foundation President and CEO Maryam Elahi and her entire staff and for their commitment to supporting our region in navigating new challenges and partnering to build thriving new programs.

Katherine Ericson is the executive director of LEARN.