Nebula members The Education Equity Center of St. Louis recently kicked off their 2021 Anti-Racist Educators for Systems Change fellowship program + we wanted to highlight the 10 fellows chosen to participate in the program as well as the amazing team at Education Equity Center! They may be a young nonprofit, they’re celebrating their first anniversary this month, but they are already doing big things for education and educators in St. Louis!
The Anti-Racist Educators for Systems Change fellowship is a nine-month long program for educators that prepares them to work towards radical change within educational systems throughout the St. Louis region. The program features workshops and experiences designed to help the fellows build anti-racist systems change skills and strengthen their leadership practice. Along the way, they’ll receive coaching and support from other education leaders, have the opportunity to travel and visit with education changemakers across the country and receive a stipend.
Congrats to the 2021 fellows who were chosen to join a growing community of education changemakers in St. Louis! We were able to ask a few of the fellows a couple of questions to better understand what brought them to participate in the fellowship. Check out their responses below! You can meet all of the 2021 Anti-Racist Educators for Systems Change fellows here.
The Education Equity Center of St. Louis is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating racial equity in our education systems by building the anti-racist leadership capacity of educators. Their team works to amplify the collective voice of educators and encourage connected partnerships between students, families and organizations across the region. Learn more about the work they’re doing + how you can support that work by checking out their website. And join them as they celebrate their one-year anniversary this week!
Big thanks to the Ed Equity team for their assistance with this story!
Jen Patterson, Francis Howell School District, Director of Student Services
What is the biggest change you’d like to see in STL’s education system? I’d like to see the resources school districts have access to across the region be distributed in a more equitable way.
Can you tell us about an experience you had as an educator that has inspired your work towards a more equitable education system? I continue to watch students receive disproportionate discipline. Students of color are routinely approached by teachers in the halls to remove hats & hoodies while white students pass by with hats & hoodies. Teachers need so much more learning on bias and equity. Staff cannot contribute to fixing an unjust system when they don’t understand their role in perpetuating it.
Mona Rajab, Parkway School District – Sorrento Springs, 1st Grade Learning Experience Designer
What is the biggest change you’d like to see in STL’s education system? The biggest change I’d like to see in STL’s education system is a more humanized approach to education. There is an obsession with management, control, conformity, and compliance (not just with students, but from admin with teachers, as well). The absence of these is not chaos, but freedom, and with freedom, comes responsibility. Is this not the foundation of our democracy?
Can you tell us about an experience you had as an educator that has inspired your work towards a more equitable education system? It’s hard to name a specific experience, but during my 20 years as an educator, I have had the misfortune of witnessing time and time again the degradation and dehumanization of Black children by the white adults entrusted with their care. This usually was characterized by low academic and character expectations. As they say, people will either rise or fall to your expectations, and that is exactly what happened (and continues to happen).
JaNae Alfred, The School District of University City, Administrator
What is the biggest change you’d like to see in STL’s education system?The biggest change I would like to see in St. Louis’ education system would be to create authentic diversity, equity, and inclusion training for educators and safe spaces for all of its students.
Can you tell us about an experience you had as an educator that has inspired your work towards a more equitable education system?As an educator, I have learned that schools have often been a place of trauma for families of color. In learning that, I work daily to create loving, informative, supportive spaces for the families I serve.
Marvin L Rice, Hazelwood School District, Twillman Elementary School, Assistant Principal
What is the biggest change you’d like to see in STL’s education system? The biggest change I would like to see is that students must be given information from all aspects of history, it cannot always be told from the perspective of the winner, but must provide a true look and investigation of who people are, the actual events that happened, and be given the space to analyze various perspectives and experiences.
Can you tell us about an experience you had as an educator that has inspired your work towards a more equitable education system? During my tenure in the classroom, the students were given the assignment and task to take on the role of those in history, particularly during the civil war, and through the eyes of those participants, provide an argument as to why the war would be necessary, the issue of slavery and the side to stand on. The students being able to take the perspectives of white men, black people, women, and indigenous people was amazing. They were able synthesize the information without being told – they only read from one source – and being able to provide all students with that access and opportunity would legitimately shift how we taught, what students would access to learn, and create paths for real conversations.
Nakia Winston, St. Louis Language Immersion School, Social Worker
What is the biggest change you’d like to see in STL’s education system?One of the biggest changes I would like to see in the STL education system is more focus on teaching leadership skills. Specifically, leadership in Black boys K-8. I would love to see educators put emphasis on increasing leadership skills, sense of community, and centered relationship building with young Black boys. I do believe strengthening these areas would provide more successful outcomes related to achievement gaps. Because I do imagine classrooms where Black students are leaders and high performing, I think it is imperative education systems meet every student where they are. Historically, education systems have expected Black students to assimilate the majority cultural values and ideals. The creation of equitable school systems would disrupt the current systems of white superiority and allow spaces where Black students can bring their individual experiences to the classroom comfortably.
Can you tell us about an experience you had as an educator that has inspired your work towards a more equitable education system? Many experiences have inspired my drive to create more equitable systems. In my current position with St. Louis Language Immersion School, I have been fortunate enough to be a part of a team approach on ways we can improve for our most vulnerable students. After reviewing data related to academics, suspensions, and office referrals it is clear the current systems are not providing appropriate access and opportunity for our most vulnerable students to be successful. That inspires me to want to be a part of the change that is needed.
Morgan Hill, SouthSide Early Childhood Center, Program Director
What is the biggest change you’d like to see in STL’s education system? I want to see all children and families have access to quality early childhood education (ECE), in programs where children have equitable experiences led by educators who are supported and earning a living wage. ECE is the foundation for so much that happens in a child’s life, and can make huge differences in the lives of not only a child but an entire family.
Can you tell us about an experience you had as an educator that has inspired your work towards a more equitable education system?Participating in WEPOWER’s Tomorrow Builders Fellowship opened my eyes to the issues in early childhood education that folks all across our region are facing. Through the fellowship, I met many individuals who are part of the early childhood education system, and saw that many of us are having similar challenges. Many solutions to these challenges exist, yet systemic barriers often prevent stakeholders from fully benefiting from ECE. Seeing that change was and is possible, and that so many are committed to our youngest learners, inspired my work within the ECE system to continue towards a more equitable education system.