Erica Gelven: A Voice for Parents and Teachers

Erica Gelven and her daughters Rachel and Sarah are getting ready for summer fun. Erica has bigger than usual plans for this summer, however-she starts her two-year term as PTA president in July.
Erica Gelven and her daughters Rachel and Sarah are getting ready for summer fun. Erica has bigger than usual plans for this summer, however-she starts her two-year term as PTA president in July. Photo by Karena Garrity/Harbor News

The assignment always given out by this local psychology professor is to put the kids of Clinton first, and that's exactly what Erica Gelven has been doing for the past three years as part of the 100-plus-member strong Clinton Parent Teacher Association (PTA). Now that Erica has been elected as the new president of the PTA, she plans to work even harder and get even more accomplished in the name of Clinton students.

Erica's two-year term will begin in July, and she says she is extremely excited about this new opportunity.

Having spent a large part of her childhood summering with her extended family on the Clinton shore, Erica and her husband, Marc, moved to town in 2000 from Maryland to be closer to family, before they started a family of their own.

Now a mom of two-Rachel, a 7th grader, and Sarah, a 4th grader-Erica says she has been very impressed by the wonderful job done by the Clinton school system and by the great education her children are getting, and now she is excited to be part of that conversation and the work to make things even better.

"I think the PTA is a great opportunity for advocacy. It is the ultimate vehicle for understanding the partnership and interaction between our schools and our community because we all have the best interest of the students in our hearts," says Erica, who is a professor of psychology at the Three Rivers Community College in Norwich.

"The PTA is really a voice for parents and teachers on issues facing our school system, from school lunches to Common Core and everything in between," she says. "My goal is to really have the PTA viewed as a great resource of information for parents and teachers to come to when they need extra information or support."

She added, "I think the PTA is at a crossroads right now, and I mean that in the best possible sense of the word. We are transitioning into a time of less set meetings, understanding the time restraints of teachers and parents who already have so many demands on their time, and switching things over to be more of a roundtable discussion from time to time, where ideas can be shared and listened to. These gatherings will be interspersed with visits from special guest speakers at set meeting dates."

In addition to tweaking the approach to formal PTA meetings, Erica plans to send a regular PTA newsletter that will keep members up to date on what's going on, what has been discussed, and upcoming events.

Extending her passion for the good of Clinton's children, Erica has also served on the Clinton Human Service Advisory Board for the past three years, lending her professional psychology background to the mix as well as her personal experience as a mom to weighty issues facing the youth of Clinton.

In between teaching college classes, attending PTA or board meetings, or spending quality time with her family, this working mom occasionally indulges in the guilty pleasure of watching reality television.

"I do admit that on occasion I watch reality television, but not for entertainment, mostly because I like to analyze the mental health of the characters," she says. "I know it's a little odd, but sometimes it's just fun."

She also spends time enjoying the landscape of Clinton and adding flowers to her garden beds. This summer Erica will be partaking in all of her favorite activities while getting ready for the upcoming school year, as well as PTA meetings and events.

Next up for the PTA is the Thursday, July 17 Community Book Read and Discussion of Carol Dweck's book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success/How We Can Learn to Fulfill our Potential. The discussion is open to the public; for more information, visit www.clintonpta.org.

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