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2024 Equity Symposium Raises the Bar

Teachers– and students– were teaching teachers, administrators, coaches and other instructional staff during a day filled with social justice content. The 2024 Equity Symposium raised the bar and challenged the minds and hearts of nearly 120 CHCCS educators during a six hour event on Saturday, January 13. With an opening keynote, 17 interactive learning sessions, and a final keynote from Dr. Bettina Love, the powerhouse writer, speaker and activist, the reviews  were stellar: “It was a fantastic, emotionally moving day,” “Incredible, well-prepared symposium,” and “Thank you to the amazing  women of the Equity Office for bringing this dream alive. It was a beautiful day of community!”


The advance summary noted the Symposium would be led by educators, for educators, to serve as a platform to "empower and inspire change as we continue to put equity into action." All five Strategic Plan Core Values were on full disiplay, but Social Justice Action held center stage all day.


Designed to leverage the abundance of equity-centered knowledge among CHCCS educators, the Symposium planning took place over many months, with a careful curation of presentation topics from Identity Work with Culturally Competent Read-Alouds, Inclusive Co-Teaching: Empowering Exceptional Learners and Multilingual Students, Speak Your Truth: Elevating Student Voice through Spoken Word Poetry and But what does this mean for me? One Teacher's Approach to Culturally Relevant Holocaust Education. The sessions were rich, rigorous and filled with activities, graphics and other resources for teachers’ toolkits.


Equity summit

Yes, it was a Saturday and the sixth workday of the week for educators, yet their engagement and enthusiasm were palpable. At 1:00, when most participants’ energy might have dipped, Dr. Love came to the podium. She held eyes and ears for a full hour, and as one evaluation noted, “You could hear a pin drop throughout the entire talk”. Riffing off the theme of “Education can’t save us, we have to save education,” Dr. Love, a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, drew from her New York Times bestselling book, “Punished for Dreaming: How School Reform Harms Black Children and How We Heal.”


The morning began with a welcome from Superintendent Dr. Nyah Hamlett, brief remarks by Deputy Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, Systemic Equity and Engagement Dr. Rodney Trice, followed by the Opening Keynote delivered by current Burroughs Wellcome Fund NC Teacher of the Year and CHHS English Teacher, Kimberly Jones and 2021 NC Teacher of the Year, and CHCCS Equity Specialist, Eugenia Floyd.


Floyd spoke about her early goals as a teacher, “I wanted to make sure that when families entered my classroom, it didn’t have to be a negotiation of your joy or who you are. Even though I went to the best school system in the state, I still sometimes had to wrap up who I was in some kind of package and be someone I didn’t identify with".


Jones grew up in a rural community in the Sandhills. “I was praised by my teachers and was told how exceptional I was– Kim, you’re so exceptional, but I didn’t realize the problematic nature of that phrase until much later. I was good at the game of school, learning what people around me wanted and giving that to them. I became really good at mimicking middle class, white Christian values, and I was praised for it. I was in college before I realized what that was doing to my sense of self. I realized, Kim Jones is exceptional, but she is not an exception".  MSAN at summit


The only session offered twice was “Portrait of a Teacher,” led by high school students from MSAN, the Multicultural Student Achievement Network. They shared their evolving project outlining what CHCCS students require from their educators, in order to feel a sense of belonging in their schools. Both sessions were packed, with principals, assistant principals and teachers lining the walls in standing room only capacity.


East Chapel Hill High student, Mahlaya Diallo, said, “It was great to see how passionate the teachers who saw us present were about the wellbeing and treatment of their students. While I was presenting I felt respected, listened to, and empowered by what I was doing and talking about. I feel as if equity is such an important topic that affects all of us and it's great to see how dedicated our teachers, admin, staff, and us students are to making the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district a safe and equitable place for all of those who are a part of it.”


Coordinator for Instructional Equity and Leadership, Trilce Marquez said, “I'm truly inspired by the educators who came and our amazing presenters (both educators and students!). We have the knowledge needed to create equitable, culturally and linguistically sustaining educational spaces right here in Chapel Hill - Carrboro. Putting equity into action is what these educators are all about!”