HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Parents are getting their kids excited to head back to school in Hartford, but what gets teachers fired up for the new school year? That’s the job of Hartford Public Schools’ annual Convocation.

Hartford’s XL Center typically hosts rock bands and basketball playoffs, but on Thursday, the Noah Webster School drumline kicked things off. The real headliners are their teachers, however.

The pep-rally style event brings all the teachers together at the start of the school year. Well, usually, they come together. The last time they were at the XL was 2019.

“Three years later, here we are,” Superintendent of Hartford Public Schools Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez said. “I believe, together today, we are stronger and ready to tackle what lies ahead.”

The COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot about teaching — remote learning, masks in class, and fear of disease.

“You have worked through some of the most tumultuous school years in the history of public education,” said Carol Gale, president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers.

Another consequence of the pandemic is the change in the labor force. A lot of teachers left the profession for better-paying jobs. School leaders said their Convocation aims to get teachers excited about returning to school and get them to stay.

“We love you, and we need you, and we need you to stick through this year with our young people because you are the most important part to this mix,” said Rev. AJ Johnson, vice-chair of the Hartford Board of Education. “So, I need you to stay. I’m begging you to stay. I need you to stay.”

The students who have also been through a lot in the last two and a half years need guidance and encouragement.

“In the smiles you bring to your students, the praise you offer their accomplishments, the patience you show during their struggles,” Gale said.

Everyone has had their fair share of struggles recently.

“But today, today, we celebrate you, and we focus on your renewal and healing,” Torres-Rodriguez said to her teachers.

Because when the world turns upside down, we still need those teachers.