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Brookfield Couple Honored For Their Efforts To Encourage Teachers


March 19, 2009

A Brookfield couple was honored Wednesday for their funding of annual scholarships to minority students who want to become math or science teachers.

Fred and Joan Weisman were honored by the board of governors for higher education. The couple has given a total of $130,000 since 2005 to fund the Weisman Program, which provides $5,000 a year for scholarships and $2,500 a year to help repay loans for students who go on to teach in Connecticut.

Higher-education officials said it is the only program in their department that is funded by private citizens.

Michael Meotti, commissioner of higher education, thanked the Weismans, saying he was interested in seeing whether other philanthropists would consider doing the same to expand other horizons.

Fred Weisman, 76, a retired aeronautical engineer and chief operating officer for two aircraft leasing companies, said he has had tremendous opportunities in his life and wants to help others.

"I wanted to promote science and math because our country and our state are sorely needing in that area," he said.

Weisman and his wife, Joan, 73, a retired teacher, are active volunteers in their community and region. They serve on nonprofit boards and help with scouting programs, the Odyssey of the Mind school competition and AmeriCares, a federal program.

The program has helped Sara Feshazion, 21, a senior at the University of Connecticut, who attended the meeting to meet the Weismans.

Feshazion, a student teacher at Bulkeley High School in Hartford, said the program helped her pay bills.

"I have two jobs right now, and I'm still broke so this helped me out a lot," said the Orange resident. "It helped me pay rent for school and took the stress from my shoulders."

She said she enjoys teaching biology and environmental science at Bulkeley, and the experience has confirmed her decision to become a teacher.

"They're crazy kids, they have a lot of problems, but I love them. I plan on teaching for the rest of my life and I love this."

The Weisman Program, which supplements the Minority Teacher Incentive Grant Program, is designed to get more members of minority groups interested in teaching. Currently, only 7.1 percent of Connecticut's teachers are members of minority groups.

So far, eight students have received the Weismans' scholarship, including four in college and two already in the classroom.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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