BERLIN, Conn. (WTNH) – School superintendents from all over Connecticut gathered at Berlin High School this morning for the Education Commissioner’s annual Back-to-School meeting. The theme for this year is “The Sky Is Not the Limit,” and who better to talk about that than former astronaut Bernard A. Harris, Jr., who has spent more than two and a half weeks in space.

“We live in the 21st century, and if our kids are going to be prepared for that future, we need to have STEM education involved in that,” Harris said.

Harris is also the executive director for business development and fundraising for the National Math + Science Initiative, and the keynote speaker at this meeting. STEM is science, technology, engineering, and math, the kinds of things future workers need in high-tech jobs in Connecticut.

“Even with all of that technology and those companies that are here, that is the foundation on which our kids are getting into when they join the workforce,” Harris said.

This will be the most normal back-to-school season we have seen in three years, but even if things are normal now, educators still have to worry about the learning gap caused by the pandemic.

“We did lose some time over the last three years, but I think we’ve even done some really good last year in moving our students forward,” according to Fran Rabinowitz, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.

“There’s always going to be catching up to do, even if there wasn’t a pandemic,” said Derby Schools Superintendent Matt Conway, Jr. “You are always looking to get better every single day at what you do. With our kids, with our teachers, with our family.”

“We’re very well positioned here in Connecticut to evaluate the pace of our learning recovery to identify early signs of what might be working and to target supports where they are needed most,” said Commissioner Charlene M. Russell-Tucker of the Connecticut Department of Education.

Mostly, however. school officials want to get back that feeling of being happy to be back in school like normal.

“The joy that we felt as teachers when someone learned something,” Rabinowitz said. “I think we need to reclaim that joy and ensure that every child feels that as they begin this school year.”

This may be the first time there has been a good chance of that since 2019.