Connecticut’s hard-working teachers got a well-deserved break on June 4 and 5 as the Mohegan Tribe and Mohegan Sun hosted a reception and learning experience for the Connecticut Teacher of the Year Council at various locations on the Mohegan reservation.
The Teacher of the Year Council picked fourteen educators from across Connecticut to be honored as finalists, and ultimately selected Cara Quinn as 2015 Connecticut Teacher of the Year. All of the finalists were all in attendance at the Uncas Ballroom on the night of June 4 for a reception hosted by Beth Regan “Morning Deer” of the Council of Elders, a retired educator herself. Regan was happy to note to the attendees that the Tribe has a long tradition of cooperation and outreach to the educational community. In addition to Regan, Dr. Lynn Malerba, Chief Many Hearts, was there to welcome everyone with a Mohegan blessing and to speak of the value of educators and education.
Members of the Tribe’s Cultural department also made a contribution with baskets and hand-crafted cedar gift boxes filled with wampum. Chuck Bunnell, Chief of Staff for External and Governmental Affairs, and his assistant Terry Morton served as liaison between the Tribe and the Connecticut Teacher of the Year Council.
Quinn, an elementary school teacher at the Sunset Ridge School in East Hartford, was greeted with a standing ovation as she stepped to the podium to accept her honor. She spoke of the “rich, deep connection” that she seeks out with the children in her classroom, and of her belief in the power of supportive relationships in the school environment. Summing it up, Quinn said “teaching is a work of heart,” and her moving speech left some of those attending in tears.
Other officials attending the reception included Dr. Dianna Wentzell, Commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Education and Dr. David Basso, President of the Connecticut Teacher of the Year Council. Basso was named Connecticut Teacher of the Year in 2012, and also worked as a student teacher with Regan during the start of his educational career.
On the morning following the reception, the group attended a cultural and educational outreach event with Tribal representatives at the Tantaquidgeon Museum and the Mohegan Church. Before they bid their farewells to Mohegan territory, the group gathered in the annex o the Mohegan Church for a custom-made Native American luncheon from Mohegan Sun's Food and Beverage team.