Dr. Miguel Cardona: Journey from CT educator to Biden Secretary of Education pick

Connecticut

(WTNH) — An exciting moment for the State of Connecticut and especially our public schools. Dr. Miguel Cardona, the state education commissioner for a little over a year, has been formally nominated by President-Elect Joe Biden to the role of Education Secretary.

RELATED: Biden nominates CT Commissioner of Education Cardona as Education Secretary

His story is an inspiration to many. A product of public schools himself. After his grandparents moved to Meriden from Puerto Rico, after college and multiple degrees, he returned to Meriden and taught elementary school students. From there he went on to become principal of Hanover Elementary and continued up the ladder to assistant superintendent.

In 2019, Cardona was appointed by Governor Ned Lamont to the role of commissioner of education.

“It’s a huge source of pride not just for me being the commissioner but the journey of my parents and grandparents,” Cardona told News 8. “If you were to look on my desk you would see pictures of my grandparents who sacrificed a lot more than [I did] so that I could be commissioner of education in Connecticut.”

RELATED: CT Commissioner of Education Cardona emerges as one of front-runners for Biden’s education secretary pick, Washington Post reports

“What’s so exciting, Miguel truly represents all that’s right about American public education,” explained Dr. Mark Benigni, Meriden Public Schools’ superintendent. “If you work hard, do well, stay grounded with family and community you can achieve the greatest levels of success. That’s the Miguel Cardona story.”

Cardona is an inspiration to those who have the opportunity to meet him.

We sat down with other Meriden Pubic School administrators, peers, and friends Tuesday as they celebrate the success of Dr. Cardona.

“Miguel and I grew up in Meriden,” explained Benigni. “We were both born and raised here. Our families crossed paths. For me, when I came back to the district as superintendent, he was principal here at Hanover Elementary School.”

Banigni says he was beyond excited to hear of Cardona’s reported nomination: “Wow, incredible. Is this for real?..With Miguel, it was always when we talk every student deserves the same regardless of their zip code, socioeconomic background. They all deserve to have an excellent education.”

That’s just what makes him stand out among the rest.

Jennifer Kelley is the current principal at Hanover. To say she is proud of Cardon is an understatement.

“I have been the principal for five years now and I started out as assistant principal with Miguel. I’m so proud of him and proud to be from Meriden and to know I had the chance to work with him, to learn from him. Definitely a mentor and someone I look up to. They couldn’t have picked a better person.”

Julie Kamp, a special education teacher at Hanover was Cardona’s first hire as principal.

“It was his first hire as a principal so he was new to the position and I was a new teacher and he took me under his wing and encouraged me.”

His focus on teachers and students is what makes him an asset to Connecticut.

“The other thing people need to know about Miguel Cardona is he believes in public education enough to send his own two children to our public school right here in Meriden and that matters so much to me and should to others,” Benigni said. “He’s going to want to make sure this nation’s public schools are strong and can support learning for all students. I’m just excited….Every kid across America will benefit.”

And it’s that special vision he could be taking to a national level.

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