“The fact that there are so few black CEOs lets me know that there's still a lot of work to be done by solid black teachers, who in some cases, their presence set a standard for how I was supposed to live. They had high expectations for us.” ~ Dr. Perry Daniel
(Transcript available below)
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Heidi Higgins: Hi there, I'm Heidi Higgins. And you are listening to K12 On Learning. Now, more than ever students need answers and guidance to help them navigate the complex issues related to racial equity and social justice. At the same time, parents and educators need more tools to help bring these crucial conversations home and into the classroom. As we celebrate black history month, today, we will hear the voices of five education professionals from Stride. Each will address their understanding and their efforts at application of a keyword frequently mentioned when discussing racial equity and social justice. These words are representation, inclusion, empowerment, community, and pride. First up today, we speak with Dr. Perry Daniel.
Dr. Perry Daniel: Currently, I'm serving as a senior director of academics and partnerships with Stride Learning, focusing mainly, with our private schools. When you think about representation, it's just that, it can be... Or, having a presence in a space can hopefully, inspire, or motivate others to want to come into that space if it's education, or if it's the medical field, if it's engineering, or any other career, that representation lets those that are coming behind you, or those that may be interested in that space know that it can be done. So, I think it's important for me, seeing black people in those spaces, definitely lets me know that, it can be done, that they've chartered a path. But, also the fact that there are so few black CEOs, lets me know that there's a lot of work to be done. I saw black teachers who, in some cases, their presence set a standard for how I was supposed to live.
They had high expectations for us. The foundation that those black teachers had established for me, really set my path in those schools. As an elementary student, I saw black principals. So, seeing black administrators and being able to look back and say, "Well, you know what? I do want to go into education when I thought career, or thought major in college. I knew I wanted to be an educator, but also knew that I wanted to do more." And the fact that I could always look back and say, I knew principals and directors and things of that nature who looked like me, made me know that I could do that.
Heidi Higgins: Dr. Yolanda Hamilton is the Executive Director for the Nevada Virtual Academy.
Dr. Yolanda Hamilton: I have been there five years. Super diverse school. Inclusion means just equity and access for everybody, all students, all staff, all families. And at Nevada Virtual Academy, because we often get students and families who have been disenfranchised for a variety of reasons, is really important to us. And I think we embody that. We embody it in our classrooms and in our clubs and our opportunities for our students and families. We've got a great team that make sure that our special education, our LGBTQ, our marginalized communities, all feel welcomed and included in our Nevada Virtual Academy Community. And I think it's important for them to have a voice and to feel like they matter. And to know that somebody cares and is going to be certain that their needs are being met, socially, emotionally, all of that. We try to make sure that we do that.
It really starts with my leadership team. I have a very diverse leadership team. I have a very inclusive one. We meet regularly, where everybody comes to the table and has a voice. And so, I think most importantly, modeling that inclusion is important. Two, is training people. I think people often don't know what inclusion should look like, or what it should feel like. And so, we've had a lot of PD on implicit bias and inclusivity. Again, I think it starts at the top of modeling. I think it comes down to us being into the classrooms, making sure that we're seeing those inclusive practices, students working together in groups, making sure that our teachers get to know our students, making sure that our advisors and our counselors are meeting with our kids and recognize who they are and what needs they have, and then meeting them. That's how I think we get that message across, that we are inclusive. Everyone can come to the table. From having our parent advisory committees at PLCs and our faculty advisory committee and making sure that everybody feels included and that they have a voice.
Heidi Higgins: Michelle Hill is from the Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy.
Michelle Hill: I am the Academic Administrator for Special Programs at LVCA. I am a supervisor, or overseer of the special education teachers, related service coordinator, 504 compliance. So, it's about 20 staff that fall under my supervision. Empowerment means to me, the ability to make a difference. And in order to make a difference, I feel like you have to be empowered. Here at LVCA, being able to work in an environment where I am empowered. Having a leader, our Executive Director, Mrs. Danielle, Scott-Johnson, truly empowers us to be able to do our job and do it effectively. That my staff, they're able to support the students and make good decisions. And so, I guess, when I think about it, empower is a verb. So, it's all about action. Giving a person the ability to do, to action, to do things. And when we think about education, make a difference.
It's important, because it's about positive student outcomes. When teachers are empowered to support families. We always talk about increased student achievement, very big on looking at the data and seeing how we can support students and increase student achievement. We call ourselves The Incredibles, and in orderer to be incredible, you have to be able to be willing to put your best foot forward and do everything you can do. Because, at the end of the day, it is about increasing student achievement. And just because, these students, some of them have disabilities and whether it's related to a deficit, or if it's gifted, I mean, we have a large population of students who are what we call alternate assessment. In that way, when we look at empowerment, the staff, they're able to do those things and make a difference too. The cliche that all students can learn, I think it's a quote that says, "All students can learn, but not maybe on the same day, or the same time." With my staff, leading them in such a way and collaborating with them.
Yes, I'm the leader, but we collaborate. Being able to empower them, talk about what's going on in their departments. And so, it has truly made a difference to me with the growth and allowing them. I always challenge them to be problem solvers and to own their jobs, own your positions. And so, I am excited about how they do that. They really, truly... They care about our families and our students and they show that in their actions and everything. And I think it's because we do, we empower, we collaborate. It's not just about me. It's what we can do together.
Heidi Higgins: Dr. Erica Young-Jackson is a coordinator for Career Readiness Education in Arizona.
Dr. Erica Young: For the Insight Academy of Arizona, I am the CRE Coordinator for our Strike Career Prep Program here. Community for me, is just fellowshipping and getting to know everyone in our little school and across the district and our children's families. Just, knowing who you are speaking with and understanding their background and culture. I think it's important, because I think it helps build their character and just helps them have a better understanding as they launch themselves out into the real world, either in a internship, currently in school, or if they do something after school. And it just helps create a atmosphere of a little bit more comfortability for them, when they get out into the real world. I try to put on work-based learning activities. I bring a lot of-
Heidi Higgins: Okay.
Dr. Erica Young: Industry partners in, from different walks of life. And then, we also launched this year, a community service project that we partner with All Faith Community Service here in Buckeye, where we help distribute food boxes and the kids help put boxes there.
They get to work with older individuals who can just provide more insight to them. So, I think they got a lot out of it. Not just they're making boxes, but they get to meet people and get talk to people about all types of things. We promote it through our networking, through different partnerships, through our industry partners. I think, our kids are growing not only, in their career field, but also as they network with these individuals, they're building their community. They it's part of your professional skills. Being able to adapt when you're communicating with different cultures, understanding that maybe a handshake doesn't mean the same thing in another culture. Especially, with what we're going through right now with social distancing and everything. I think, it's just extremely important that our students understand how to adapt in a diverse field.
Jason Williams: My name is Jason Williams, I'm a seventh grade Social Studies teacher at the Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy. I've been teaching for 19 years, pride... It's that sense of satisfaction, that one and gets whenever they achieve a goal. Pride, that's a very important, powerful, strong concept. Because, we are humans-
Heidi Higgins: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jason Williams: And when we know someone that really has our best interests in their hearts and they tell you, "Hey, I'm proud of you. I'm proud of how hard you work. I'm proud of who you have become." That just makes you melt. So, that's a powerful, powerful concept and it needs to be shared. And everyone does not experience that feeling that one gets when someone tells them that they're proud of what they're doing, or what they've become as a person-
Heidi Higgins: Right.
Jason Williams: They may not have anyone to tell them that, "Hey, you're doing an excellent job. You're working very hard. I'm proud of you, how you show that courage." And they will therefore, remember that great feeling that they had and they can transfer it themselves, to someone else and let that good feeling spread. We want people to be proud of the work that they do and that will make them a more productive citizen. And in part, it will really help our world as a whole. "I'm going to be dependable. I am going to be consistent and I'm going to do whatever I can, to make sure that they are successful." So, make sure that we promote pride to let them know that I'm not going to give them the information right then and there, I want to become active learners. You find the information in, being in history, there are going to be different perspectives. So, you need to make sure whenever you're doing your research and trying to find that information, go ahead and look at the different perspectives.
Then, share that information with your classmates. So, whenever they ask me a question, they already know, I'm going to tell you, "Become an active learner." And they'll say, "Mr. Williams, I'm an active learner. Look what I've just found out." And then, they share with the classmates and I'll let them know, "Did you check your sources? How many sources did you check?" And they feel really proud about finding that information on their own. So, it's going to help them to become better learner. My mother, Anita Williams, she taught first grade for 30 years.
Heidi Higgins: Yeah.
Jason Williams: She also taught Sunday School. The way she took care of her kids. And she made those lesson plans late at night, but she made sure that kids would know how to read. So, she really instilled hard work in me. And I really learned, "Hey, you need to take pride in your work. Take pride in your work and do your very best."
Heidi Higgins: Thank you for listening to K12 On Learning, sponsored by Stride. To learn more about the online public schools, powered by Stride K12, the Stride Career Prep Program that fosters lifelong learning, or any private school, or individual course offering. Please go to k12.com, or stridelearning.com. Special thanks to 3K Studios, LLC, for writing the music for us. We hope you'll subscribe to this podcast and leave us a good review. Join us again next week for K12 On Learning!
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