Teacher equity team will have to wait until spring to restart meetings

As ELHS returned to in-person learning, it was clear that it would not be easy to have teachers out of the building, due to a lack of substitutes. This meant that teachers would not be able to miss school for meetings out of the building, which impacted the ELHS Equity team. After a several-month hiatus, the team will resume meetings until the spring or summer of 2021. 


The team, also called the ELHS Social Justice team, was officially formed in December of 2020 as a network of teachers and mental health professionals.  This team includes Diana Sanchez (Spanish), Klaudia Burton (science), Elena Espinoza (ELA), Heather Findley (social worker), Jerry Jones (student advocate), Jeffrey Lampi (Spanish), Sheri Seyka (ELA), Terri Cregg (physical education,health), and Jillee Horn (economics). 


Sanchez said that the mission of the group comes from the Justice Leaders Collaborative, a social justice training, education and coaching service. Based on their approach, the purpose of the equity team is to work towards, “social justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in all areas of our life and work.” 


For her specifically, Sanchez thinks the purpose is for our staff to have a better understanding of how race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability status, and other social identities impact the experiences of our students. It is our responsibility as educators to self-reflect and challenge our own worldviews, so that we can transform our classrooms and curriculum into brave spaces!” 


The several equity team meetings that took place earlier this year were usually held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. While online, this was manageable. Now, with in-person learning, this would mean that all members would have to miss a whole day of in-person teaching and find a substitute teacher. This can be very difficult because of the substitute teacher shortage the state is experiencing. This led administrators to make the decision to postpone the meetings, which will now hopefully be able to start back up in the spring or summer of 2021. 


“At the beginning of our training, we got a sneak peak of what to expect for each session,” Espinoza said. “We have already covered the basics of social identity as well as race, ethnicity, privilege, racism, and prejudice. My understanding is that our next sessions will focus on class, gender, gender expression, and sexuality.”


The team has already begun to plan their next meeting and they’re excited to get working again. Sanchez in particular is excited about continuing training this spring, to take some time to think intentionally about their next steps toward theis social justice education..


“This is just the beginning,” Sanchez said. “With administrative support, I hope that the team can take what we’ve learned and find actionable ways of addressing the inequities we see in our district. I want to see the work we do trickle down into empowering moments for our students in which they feel understood, accepted, and valued.”