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Elonia Lamontagne School Committee candidate Ward 8 introduction

Hello,

Thank you for checking out my education blog! To introduce myself, I am your Democratic candidate for Chicopee School Committee for Ward 8!

I was a science teacher at Chicopee High School from 2013-2018 and worked as a secretary on the Chicopee Education Association from 2015-2018. I have a Master’s in Education from the local Elms College, a B.S. in Chemistry from Westfield State University and an additional 30 credits of Graduate coursework in Chemistry through University of Saint Joseph, a strenuous online Master’s program.

Currently, I work at Eastman Chemical Company in Indian Orchard as a Lead Quality Control Analyst. I plan to update this blog with my ideas about education reform and innovation, my experience with schools and education locally, and create a community where people can share ideas, ask questions, and voice concerns in a non-judgemental way.

I’d like to use this introduction to explain my overall passion for education in Chicopee and then I will update following posts throughout my candidacy. Thank you for reading and considering me as your candidate.

I have wanted to be a teacher since my brain was developed enough to even contemplate the future. There was a comfort I always felt in the classroom. It was a place where I felt supported and have grown in many ways. The more I learned, the more I knew I wanted to teach. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I decided to major in Chemistry. I actually didn’t particularly like it at first. I thought I would probably teach English or math, my two favorite subjects, but chemistry prevailed. It includes math with problem solving and English in basically teaching a whole new language that is the elements, chemical formulas, chemical structures, and nomenclature. Also, the more I learned chemistry, the more I loved it. It was easy to pass on my love for it to my students.

My high school chemistry teacher, Mark Abert, was also my advisor during my senior year, became a mentor of mine. I taught lessons in his class during my teaching practicum and we became colleagues and friends during our time working together at CHS.

His death in 2016 was a turning point for me. He inspired me to not take things personally with the students, to continue making chemistry fun, to embrace my inner nerd and to teach students to do the same. Not being in the classroom anymore to do these things is sometimes sad for me, but I find other ways to make him proud. I am a chemist, I continue to teach chemistry through my Instagram @E.LoChem and School Committee would be a good way for me to still work with the schools that made me who I am today.

I graduated from Chicopee High School in 2009 in the top 10 of the class. I was involved in student council, ran for class president (didn’t win, but oh well), orchestrated each winning Pride Week Poster Contest, helped found the short- lived Future Educators of America club, and took two AP courses each year. I’m not sure if this experience is relevant besides from the memory of excitement I have of high school. Part of my mission as a teacher was to bring this excitement to my students.

Here is a photo of me last year reliving high school in maroon and gold on CHS Pride day with some of my chemistry students:

My goals if elected to school committee include:

– ensuring schools and classrooms are a positive learning environment where students and staff feel heard, respected, and comfortable

– encouraging quality of work over quantity of work for both students and teachers (i.e. putting your all into less, but manageable things rather than saying “yes” to everything and burning out. You need sleep!!)

– working to provide the best for students while considering the reality of financial limitations and researching alternatives and compromise when necessary

– working with the CEA and city administration to negotiate reasonable and competitive contracts

– being a reliable and consistent ear for teachers, students, parents, staff, and citizens of Chicopee. Speaking of, my email that I can always be reached at is elamontagne@usj.edu & This blog is also a platform where I can be reached.

I’d love to hear from you.

Yours,

Elonia Lamontagne, M. Ed

Candidate for School Committee Ward 8

SC Speech

Hello, my name is Elonia Lamontagne, a nominated candidate for the school committee at large seat. People seem to be impressed by the fact that I have a Master’s degree in Education. This has been a shock me, however, because all of your teachers have a Master’s degree in education, or are working towards it. It is required by the state for professional licensure. Why is it that I have only felt that my Master’s degree was impressive until now that I entered politics?

Teachers are modest creatures, they are stressed, and they are particularly stressed when they are rule followers. Sure, there are plenty of teachers that choose their battles, but there are teachers that are hired believing every rule needs to be enforced 100%. The other teachers in this room know that it’s impossible. But I didn’t my first couple years teaching. No one told me the unwritten rules, that we have all these rules, but they are there for particular circumstances, that you will get in trouble for not enforcing some, but not others. As a rule-following science person, this was very confusing to me and put me in a bad place. Sure, my students generally followed the rules, but they were not happy about it and did not like me as a teacher because in their next period class, they can take off their ID and pull out their cell phone and text their friend, “isn’t Miss L crazy?” Then they would praise their cool teacher who let those things slide and be happy to learn from them.

A vote for me is a vote for someone who has worked in education very recently since it has drastically changed, even just in the past ten years, even since I attended Chicopee High School myself. It is majorly due to technology which, believe it or not, isn’t a bad thing. It’s incredible and it’s made everyone’s lives easier than ever. Students are smarter than ever because of it, and what do we still tell them? No electronic devices.

Instead, students need to learn how to focus their attention on their work while having the cell phone on their desk, or in their pocket, or in their bag. They’re living in a world where their friends and even their parents expect a timely response, even while they’re in class. Teachers can teach this skill to students. I have. Having eventually realized I was one of the few rule followers, I took advantage of a study I heard about one year. The study showed that students behave better, work independently better, and focus better when they can listen to music while they work. And the study was right. Just changing that one rule took such a load of stress off of me, I looked away if a student was just changing the song or checking the time, and they had such a positive attitude because of the trust that I put in them. They understood that they couldn’t use it for tests and we agreed on our own classroom rules that year. It was such a difference in the culture of my classroom and the key word was Trust. Trust in our students and Trust in our teachers.

Having no cell phones allowed isn’t helping students develop their focus skills. It only makes them feel less trusted. For many students, school feels like a prison and naturally, they resist. They are expected to wear ID’s around their neck like they’re only visitors and refusal and strict enforcement causes large amounts of stress for all involved first thing in the morning. Every day. For the rule followers out there, let’s rethink some of the old rules for the sake of the sanity of our teachers and the feelings of our students.

There is another study I’d like to tell you about. A friend of mine with a Ph.D in behavioral sciences and neuroscience told me that she begins her courses by telling her undergrads about the Rosenthal effect. This was a study in which a large group of students all took the same standardized test. 10% of the average-scoring students were taken aside and placed in a class together. Their teacher was told on the down low, “hey, just so you know, these students tested very well.” What happened was this actually-average group of students lived up to the way that they were then treated by their teacher, as trusted, smart, high performing students and they then actually Became Higher performers than the control group. And those skills transferred throughout their school careers.

So again, trust in our students and also, trust in our teachers.

Thank you for your consideration,

Elonia Lamontagne

Letter of interest

Chicopee City Council

274 Front St.

Chicopee, MA 01013

Chicopee Public Schools

180 Broadway

Chicopee, MA 01020

January 12, 2020

To the Honorable Mayor Vieau, City Councilors and School Committee members:

I, Elonia Lamontagne, candidate for school committee of Ward 8 in this past election, am still interested in serving on the School Committee for Chicopee, my hometown, my alma mater, and my current city. During my years of teaching science at Chicopee High School, I have experience working with the teachers, students, and administration. Additionally, my three years working as the Corresponding Secretary for the Chicopee Education Association broadened my knowledge of process, grievances, and the importance of accountability related to our schools.

If appointed for this position, my votes would be in favor of what will ultimately help the students succeed, whether it be keeping teachers paid comparably (or better) than other districts so that they will want to stay, treating all professionals and also all students and parents with respect, or making sure to always consider the struggling students and what we can do to help them to succeed in school. Some don’t understand the emotional toll that my former colleagues take on in the current world of education. It is the work of compassion and love, and of the building of our future generations. The students of Chicopee I have had the pleasure of working with remind me that we will be in good hands as we grow older. I would like to continue to support the ongoing, always improving endeavor of education. This is the perspective that I would like to bring to the School Committee.

I will strive to promote transparency, enhancing a sense of community and preserving our core values. I’m committed to fostering a caring community within the school system. I will support initiatives that create a welcoming and compassionate environment that provides the best services for our kids through a responsive and accessible School Committee focused on the public good.

Thank you for your consideration,

Elonia M. Lamontagne, M.Ed

CC: Chicopee Education Association

Cats & Dogs

When I was teaching, it was important to do some trial and error since day 1. I didn’t come off too strong to students at first and focused more on one-on-one interactions. This seemed to work well especially with students who did okay in my class, but had issues in other classes. With group work, I always gave students the option to work alone since I would do random grouping. Then, if there was a situation where I wanted to reward them (or make a deal with them) I would let them pick their groups. With some classes it didn’t work, like if any student is left out or if it’s just too cliquey. The students who opted out of group work were usually more like cats while the students who wanted to work together were more like dogs. The independent students were worked in a disciplined way and could figure out problems on their own while the group work kids were more easily distracted, but also learned much better from their peers than from the book. This is why this resonated with me:

Of course, most students are not completely one or the other, but it is important to consider both with every lesson.

Link to blog post where the screenshots were found:

http://affectiveliving.com/2019/10/22/4-power-moves-for-building-rapport/

Stepping off our Stress Box

https://affectiveliving.com/2019/10/18/stepping-off-our-stress-box/

“There’s no question that today’s young adults are feeling intense levels of stress. 

  • 31% of all teens report feeling overwhelmed, depressed or sad as a result of stress
  • 36% of teens report fatigue or feeling tired 
  • 23% report skipping a meal due to stress
  • 2x as many students report their stress is getting worse compared to declining
  • 42% report they are not doing enough to manage their stress 
  • 13% say they never set aside time to manage stress

from https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2014/02/teen-stress.aspx

I see it with my students. They brag about how little they sleep. They one-up each others’ tales of towers of homework. Their ironic generation jests stress into a cultural norm. We could lament the rise of social media, peer pressure, or the culture of competition. But let’s look in the mirror:

Maybe we are to blame for setting bad examples.”

Read the full post here:

https://affectiveliving.com/2019/10/18/stepping-off-our-stress-box/

Brain food

Chicopee schools do a good job eliminating nutrient-deficient foods compared to most schools throughout the US because unfortunately unhealthy foods are usually cheaper. These gardens encourage students to eat better 😊 It is important to keep serving Farm Fresh in schools and keep allowing for it in the school budget.

“A healthy brain is built on blood sugar, essential fats, vitamins, and minerals” – Food for the Brain (foodforthebrain.org)

I love to see passionate teachers like Mr. Brandt have the freedom to pursue such beneficial projects and the community thrives, too!

Chicopee Register article:

https://view.publitas.com/turley-publications-1/cr09-26-19/page/16

CEA & School funding !

We need to get more state funding for Chicopee schools from the Promise Act!

“If we can increase the participation by everyone, it will make a huge statement” Chicopee Education Association president 👍🏼

In the past, I’ve participated in a phone bank through the teacher’s union to ensure funding for public schools. It really did make a difference! I’d love to keep helping out because they know what needs to be done for our schools. I will keep you all updated with what I can find about how to participate!

For now, calling & leaving messages to state representatives about ratifying the revised budget for the Promise Act would be a great start.

Screenshot from the Chicopee Register:

Click to access cr09.12.19.pdf

Chicopee Register Interview Questions

The following is my response to four questions posed to me as a School Committee candidate by the Chicopee Register. I will include it here, but also keep a lookout for the paper next week!

Elonia Lamontagne’s school committee campaign is built on commitment to serve students. She considers those who feel failed by the public schools and focuses on it as feedback to improve. Not everything has to cost money. In fact, some innovations can even save money while offering flexibility & compassion so that all students can feel safe, heard, and supported in our schools.

Elonia Lamontagne awarding high school student, Jeannette Ermakova, for academic achievement in her chemistry class at CHS.

Yours,

Elonia Lamontagne, M.Ed

School committee candidate ward 8

Chicopee Meet and greet: libraries, diversity, and connections!

The Chicopee meet and greet put on by the Chicopee Dems was a good time. Everyone I talked to was very kind and posed some important and thoughtful questions.

A couple important discussions I’ve had at the meet & greet include:

Libraries:

I talked to an active CEA member (teacher’s union) that I recognized from my own union work and she informed me of some new information. Bellamy now does not have a licensed librarian, while DuPont does. It is a concern that the two middle schools in the city do not offer equivalent services to the students. School librarians are Master’s level specialists and are trained in reading comprehension, library systems, archiving, data analysis, educational development and outreach, research, and more. They have much to offer both the schools & teachers and the students. I think that students should have comparable services regardless of which of the two schools they attend in the city.

Stereotypes in the schools:

I was also asked about student stereotypes in Chicopee and, while Chicopee is a diverse town, it is the reality that there are professionals who may stereotype students based on their clothing, appearance, background, and language. This upsets me personally because I think that a students’ youth is a time that they should experiment with their expression through hair, fashion, makeup, etc. and they shouldn’t be treated differently in school because of that especially if they are adhering to the dress code. It would upset me greatly if a student was stereotyped only because of their racial/ethnic background, socioeconomic status, family relations, or first language. School needs to be a comfortable place for every student and it is the adults that must ensure it.

Professional development trainings have been offered to teachers and should continue to be prioritized. Professionals should understand the cultural differences among students so that they can make meaningful connections with students and best educate them. Also, all teachers are required to complete ELL training (English Language Learners) regardless of if students with English as a second (or third, or fourth, etc) language are in their classes. I took the course offered at my school by the state and it was a rigorous, but relevant & meaningful course.

I also recall attending a professional development about gender & sexuality so that adults can further understand how their students express themselves, create a gender identity, and define their sexual orientations. I remember coworkers saying things like, “I’ve heard that, but I didn’t know what it really meant”. Professional developments like this that help adults to understand some of their students and what they may be going through are probably the most meaningful, in my opinion.

Overall, I love that Chicopee is a place where people will grow up with a personal and deep understanding of different cultures. I remember meeting people in college that have never gone to school with anyone of a different ethnicity or culture and I felt that they missed out! Because I’ve lived and worked in Chicopee, I’ve gotten really good at understanding people with different accents, I have friends with families from all different places with amazing foods and close family values, and I’ve been able to make personal connections with people alike and different from me and see so many different perspectives! Students that grow up here have friends from school from many different backgrounds and they often befriend each other based on common interests rather than to fit a stereotype. As a result, kids that are a product of Chicopee have enriched communication skills and they’re going to be compassionate and change the world for the better. The amazing kids I’ve taught at CHS makes me sure of it. I would say the diversity is my favorite thing about this town!

Photo op:

There were four of us Chicopee women running for office and the photographer, Ray, took a photo of us:

Left to right: Haley Jarvis – candidate for city council, Angela Klusman – candidate for mayor, Brittany Samson – candidate for city council at large, and me Elonia Lamontagne – candidate for school committee.

Whether or not we win our elections, it is nice to see women represented on the ballot because, if nothing else, it encourages others to run!

I’ve also met the city council candidates for my ward, Vadnais and Labrie. This event really is wonderful because voters can casually meet all of their candidates. I feel more informed and can now use the conversations I’ve had with the candidates to make my own decisions as a voter. Whether or not I’m running, I will continue to attend this event! I’m so glad that it exists! Great work to all involved 🙂

Final note:

If I win the election for school committee, my priority will always be to represent ALL students, especially those that most require representing. All students should feel comfortable in their school, and no student should feel stereotyped or judged.

Yours,

Elonia M. Lamontagne, M.Ed

Candidate for school committee Ward 8