From presenters to planners to facilitators and even student attendees, St. Margaret’s had a notable presence at this year’s National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference in Anaheim earlier this month.
The NAIS People of Color Conference takes place annually at locations around the U.S., with the mission of examining and advancing educational issues through the lens of people of color and their experiences in independent schools. The event draws more than 6,000 independent school educators from across the nation who identify as people of color and white allies committed to advancing topics of racial equity, social justice and inclusion in their schools. This year’s event in Anaheim was organized with the help of a planning committee of local educators that included St. Margaret’s Upper School visual arts teacher Karen Poffenberger. Upper School English teacher Kimberly Kim played a leadership role in the conference as well, serving as a discussion facilitator.
The conference also featured a popular workshop led by St. Margaret’s Middle School teachers Veronica Johns-Richardson and Kevin Estipular. Presenting quick and actionable solutions to promoting cultural competency in the classroom, Ms. Johns-Richardson and Mr. Estipular received high praise from attendees for the engaging workshop titled “5, 10, 15 Minutes: Simple Activities to Practice and Promote Cultural Competency” to a packed room inside the Anaheim Convention Center.
The workshop was designed to present practical solutions and provide continuous expansion of cultural understanding, knowledge and resources, utilizing short periods of downtime in the classroom.
“It was less philosophy and more action steps,” said Ms. Johns-Richardson. “I think that’s why it resonated so well. People want ideas that they can use right away.”
Ms. Johns-Richardson conceptualized the workshop along with her friend and former co-worker Gabrielle Hernan of Boulder Country Day School in Colorado. The idea was to present quick-to-implement activities that allow for cultural competency to become “part of a school culture, not just a special day on the calendar.”
Also taking place at the three-day event was a student track called the Student Diversity Leadership Conference that was attended by members of the Upper School leadership group TIDE (Tartan Inclusivity and Diversity Education).
“The conference is a powerful professional development and student leadership experience that supports St. Margaret’s Strategic Plan goals around teaching cultural competency and fostering an inclusive school community,” said Assistant Head of School for Strategic Initiatives Ryan Dahlem. “This year’s location in Anaheim provided a unique opportunity to send a strong delegation of 18 adults and five students committed to this work. We are so appreciative of those who stepped forward to attend and lead at the conference, and know their voices and insights will be vital resources in moving our school forward.”