“Equity Underlines All We Do.”
This piece originally appeared on the EDNET blog, an initiative of the Doug and Maria DeVos Foundation.
Growing up without peers or teachers who shared my racial identity meant that finding an ally to advocate for me was a nearly impossible task. My own children find themselves in that same situation in school, which means I am often their sole ally and advocate when they experience racism or othering. So when I had the opportunity to work with Leading Educators (LE), and I saw their focus on racial equity, I had to participate.
As one of only a few BIPOC educators in my building, my hope was to gain knowledge that I could use in my classroom and share with colleagues. The knowledge and empowerment I have gained from this experience have shifted more than classroom practices.
Last year, I transitioned from being a classroom teacher for 20 years to serving as the building math instructional coach. I’m part of a team of district coaches who provide opportunities for teachers to grow their knowledge of instruction, teach to grade-level standards, and share resources and feedback to continuously improve their practice.
While all of these are important elements of building great classrooms, equity can easily be mentioned as an afterthought. In my three years of learning with LE, I’ve learned to advocate for equity as an initial and integral part of the planning process, the instructional practices, and the assessment tools we as educators use every day. Equity isn’t a side initiative—it underlines everything we do.
As an Asian American mom of two biracial kids, the awareness, the vocabulary, and the data I’ve learned have been especially beneficial when advocating for them at school. While I recognize this isn’t something every parent has to consider, as educators, we should build our capacity to have conversations with students, parents, and colleagues about racial equity. This helps all students to feel seen and to feel safe, even when a parent isn’t capable of addressing administration on their own.
My experience with Leading Educators was unique because we sat side-by-side with educators from different grade levels, districts, and personal backgrounds. Having one’s lived experience validated by the stories shared by other educators is affirming and empowering. As I listen to personal stories, collaborate in grappling with new information, or reflect on challenging a long-held belief that doesn’t serve me as an educator, I find increased value in knowing everyone in the room is working toward the same goal. Each session kindled my passion to learn more about the ways we can create equitable access to education and the antiracist spaces in which students are not shamed but are all celebrated for who they are.
All Kent ISD educators who are ready to harness their passion for racial justice and grow as leaders for equity are encouraged to apply to be an Equity Fellow. Visit the Fellowship web page to learn more and to apply. The deadline for applications is May 3, 2021.
About the author
SuLyn Weaver is a math educator of 21 years with Kentwood Public Schools where she also serves as a teacher leader.