State teachers of the year take on brave conversations

On Oct. 5, the New Jersey Council of State Teachers of the year released the following statement.

In the middle of a global pandemic, people all across this nation and world took to the streets to stand against systemic racism, xenophobia, and the violent oppression of Black and brown people. The brutal killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others at the hands of police have emphasized the systemic racism and xenophobia that persists in our schools and communities. As educators, it saddens us that the very students whose hopes and dreams we have nurtured, may leave our schools to face disproportionate imprisonment, death, or harm at the hands of a system that should be there to support them, but that so often is not. We are left to wonder how our role as educators may help our students script brighter, more equitable futures free of the intrinsic bias we have inherited from darker times in our nation’s history.

As New Jersey State Teachers of the Year, we recognize that in order to create schools and communities characterized by equity and racial justice, we need to come together in critical reflection to examine our policies, practices, curriculum, and methodologies through an anti-racist lens. As educators recognized and celebrated for epitomizing the very best instructional practices, we have a specific obligation to ensure that a strong academic focus includes a recognition of white privilege and an effort to fundamentally change the systems that inherently advantage some and disadvantage others. Furthermore, we are called to examine the pervasive Eurocentric curriculum that regularly ignores the contributions of people of color. As we learn and grow, we can work together to use culturally responsive teaching methods that includes a greater awareness of our students’ backgrounds, languages and cultures as well to make a commitment to dismantle our own bias so that we can better support all of our students.

We cannot remain silent at a time in history when we are called to think and act. As educators, we call upon ourselves and our colleagues in schools and communities to:

      Ensure that all students have access to the internet as a human right and that all students have the devices they need, including a laptop, so they can fully participate in 21st-century learning experiences.

      Prioritize professional learning and implementation of P-12 culturally responsive pedagogy.

      Include sustainable social justice frameworks.

      Create spaces where teachers can learn to create and support meaningful conversations about racial justice.

      Analyze district data that directs students to receive advanced learning opportunities and entrance into gifted/enrichment programs to find ways to remove obstacles to ensure equitable participation and experiences.

      Examine disciplinary data to ensure that students are given the same consequences for the same actions, regardless of race.

      Allocate funding for wraparound services such as counseling, health and wellness and to address community concerns and issues.

      Recognize childhood trauma and create systems of support.

      Integrate school staff by recruiting and retaining educators of color in urban, suburban, and rural districts.

      Listen deeply to brown and Black educators when they notice racist practices and policies.

      Commit as schools and districts to racial justice work as a core value.

While the novel coronavirus is new, racism, systemic racism and racial injustice are a plague that has ailed this nation even before its founding. A nation does not heal from a pandemic or racial injustice overnight. As citizens, during a pandemic, we have learned to slip on a mask to protect our neighbors’ health. As educators, we recognize that we need to engage in new ways of thinking and working to rebuild systems that truly support all of our students

New Jersey State Teachers of the Year

Amy T. Andersen, 2018

Kathy Assini, 2014

Katherine Bassett, 2000

Diane Cummins, 2004

Jeanne DelColle, 2012

Kimberly Dickstein Hughes, 2020

Danielle Kovach, 2011

Barbara LaSaracina, 2001

Jeanne Muzi, 2009

Argine Safari, 2017

Angel Santiago, 2021

Peggy Stewart, 2005

Jan Wilson, 2002

Maryann Woods-Murphy, 2010

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