Implementing inclusive curricula

How can K-5 teachers integrate the Amistad, Holocaust and Diversity/Inclusion mandates in daily instruction? 

The Atlantic County Council of Education Associations (ACCEA), in partnership with local nonprofit AC Ed Equity, sponsored a four-day workshop for K-fifth grade teachers and support staff in mid-August at the ACCEA Office in Egg Harbor City. The aim was to model the implementation of the Amistad, Holocaust, and diversity and inclusion mandates even when teaching with prepackaged curricular resources. 

The workshop series was facilitated by Pleasantville school teacher Tamar LaSure-Owens. She modeled infusing diverse perspectives and representation within the content of existing curricula using social justice nonfiction and realistic fiction read-alouds. The strategies included books written by and about BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) individuals and English language arts anthologies. Throughout her modeling, LaSure-Owens demonstrated how to set up a brave space as a classroom rule and the importance of displaying the Amistad, Holocaust, diversity and inclusion mandates next to the “WALT” (i.e., We Are Learning To…) and student objectives.  

LaSure-Owens also created a visual display of culturally responsive center activities, and exemplars of student work for attendees to examine.  

“You wrapped the resources around us,” one attendee noted. 

Student work included graphic organizers, concept webs, analogies, cloze sentences, compare and contrast writings, narrative writings, teacher-created assessments, technology integration and vocabulary word lists—such as defining a plantation not as a farm but as a forced labor camp. Another example of how to diversify curriculum was the infusion of history about people of color into math and science by incorporating Mathematician Mondays and Whiz Kid Wednesdays.  

Opportunities to collaborate 

Most importantly, the four-day workshop schedule strategically provided teachers and support staff opportunities to collaborate, to learn and unlearn, to be vulnerable, to be uncomfortable, and to actively participate as a professional learning community. Through the lens of integrity and intentionality, each session provided examples of Dr. Gholdy Muhammad’s five pursuits of culturally and historically responsive teaching: identity, skills, intellectualism, criticality and joy.  

The workshops also addressed a number of issues that can make quality professional development a challenge. Nonprofit organization AC Ed Equity, led by Atlantic City teacher Dr. Christine Ruth, provided each participant with a $200 stipend along with 17 professional development hours, 15-20 new, diverse books for use in their instruction, including Born on the Water and Amistad: The Story of a Slave Ship, and compensated the presenter fairly for her extensive expertise.  

ACCEA, through 2nd Vice President Melissa Tomlinson, provided use of the space, breakfast and lunch each day, and the critical support that teachers need to teach hard history in today’s times. NJEA Director of Professional Development and Instructional Issues Dr. Christine Miles provided posters, bookmarks, copies of mandates, and books.  

We hope this model can inspire other teachers to collaborate with their local and county associations and nonprofit organizations, as we know best what we need to learn and grow, and the real educational experts are teaching among us.