A full-day workshop focusing on what diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) look like in the classroom and around Niles West took place in the student commons on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. Students from all class years and staff from all different departments participated.
The goal of the DEI workshop is to combine both staff and students in the process of increasing equity at West.
“I attended the DEI seminar because I always want to continue to learn and grow as a teacher to better understand how I can meet my students at their level and help them learn,” math teacher Daniel Larrabee said. “Part of that process is knowing my students and learning how to empower them to have influence in their own learning community. This is a very challenging task that teacher-education programs don’t typically emphasize and explicitly teach.”
To Larrabee, equity can only begin to be addressed in the classroom where students feel a sense of belonging, safety and support from fellow peers and teachers. His colleague Tamara Jaffe-Notier is a tremendous support for teachers as they continuously work towards creating more equitable classrooms for students.
“Student voice can’t be ignored if the goal is for students to completely invest in their own learning. Teachers must leverage student-student and teacher-student relationships in order for optimal learning to exist in a diverse environment like the classrooms in our school,” Larabee said.
This workshop did not always include students. In the beginning, the school’s equity workshops and programs involved teachers only, but over the years this workshop has evolved to include students.
“I am here as a representative of the minority student achievement award [conference] that I went to back in October. I think workshops like this are important because there is such an achievement gap between students of color and white students and through these workshops we can come closer to closing that gap,” senior Lijo Andrews said.
The change to include students has allowed Niles West staff to hear student voice implement change at West from students’ suggestions.
“I am here because I value communication and hearing from teachers I have never heard before, [like] teachers from West, North and administrators. I think it is super valuable to learn from everyone’s experience,” senior Taral Talati said.