Some of Warde’s first outside lecturers of the school year visited on October 6th, when Mr. D’Acosta’s first period Global Studies class had the chance to sit down with representatives from the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation Company’s workers’ union, Teamsters 1150. Composed of workers from the prominent aircraft manufacturer based in Stratford, they discussed the means by which they advocate for benefits, fair treatment, and equitable opportunities for all workers in their share of the company umbrella. Among the representatives were union trustee Dr. Amy Gianninato, union member and interim coordinator Nick Hewell, and Sikorsky intern Kaylene Kezer. Following her discussion of how the endeavors of the union helped to better opportunities for advancement, particularly for women and young people within the company, Kezer emphasized: “We just wish that we’d learned about this in school.”
Through interaction with outside community representatives, Warde faculty and students are working to give their own students and peers a look into exterior topics and experiences beyond what class curriculums may provide. As it turns out, the presence of a speaker or speakers in any educational setting – the auditorium, a classroom, a Google meet – seems to be the most effective way to bring these ideas into school.
Following the Teamsters 1150 visit, Warde has hosted a variety of events meant to involve the school community: On November 3rd, motivational speaker Brian Williams addressed the 9th grade class on the importance of kindness and camaraderie both within and outside of Warde. On January 27th, Ambassador James Zumwalt, a former U.S. Ambassador to Senegal, delivered a presentation to interested students on career opportunities within the Foreign Service. Steered Straight Founder Michael DeLeon spoke to Warde’s lowerclassmen on February 15th on the threats and implications of vaping and drug addiction on their lives. Whether to inform, interact, or educate, the teachings of speakers provide opportunities for students to lend an ear and gain insight into lives, careers, and outlooks that vary from their own.
These keynote speakers are often first contacted by teachers within the school. Mrs. Murphy, who teaches Global Studies, American Studies, and AP Psychology at Warde, is no stranger to hosting speakers. In past years, she’s facilitated interactions with individuals from Secret Service agents and professors for her History classes to animal behavior specialists at the Norwalk Aquarium for her Psychology students. She emphasizes the significance of bringing in those who have firsthand experience in the topics which she educates on to speak to the class, which she finds often resonates most strongly when within a classroom setting: “I think a small, intimate setting is often better for learning. People often feel more comfortable asking questions in a smaller group rather than a large audience of others. In their classrooms, they’re more comfortable asking questions in front of their peers.” In such fashion, she often hosts these visitors within her own classroom, allowing for students to in part determine the significance of these moments through their own interactions with the speakers.
While it seems that a smaller environment may be best for prompting interaction and questions, a lecture to a larger set of students can prove to be just as impactful. For instance, on November 17th, John Trautwein of the Will to Live Foundation spoke in the auditorium to all grade levels with the goal of raising awareness of mental illness and teen suicide, as well as to foster empowerment and understanding between peers. His mission is one that impacts Warde’s entire population and beyond, and for two years, has delivered his message to this community in a similar fashion.
The strongest paths to learning, the development of new ideas, and greater understanding around the experiences of others may come in the form of an article or book. However, the same impact can be found through conversation. While Warde students’ interactions with speakers may not necessarily be one-on-one, a one-on-twenty-five interaction can be impactful all the same. While the aforementioned visitors pose only a snapshot of those who have visited Warde in the past seven months, all have been appreciated and will hopefully pave the way for future visits, during this second semester and beyond.