Teacher training: Ways to help students
Third in a series on teachers: While students enjoy summer break, teacher training is providing Arizona educators with ways to help students when classes resume.
Chandler High School biology teacher Katie Nash was one of hundreds of teachers taking professional development courses at Chandler Unified School District’s Breaking Barriers for Excellence Equity Symposium.Teacher training for early years or nursery education
“This summer I have a lot of professional development planned,” said Nash, including training in Florida for a new International Baccalaureate class her school will offer.
The equity symposium’s teacher training focused on building relationships with students of color, engaging families and students to boost achievement, creating equitable classrooms for special education students, recruiting and retaining non-traditional gender students in career and technical education, learning culturally responsive practices to close achievement and discipline gaps, creating safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth, preventing suicide and examining bias.
What led to the equity symposium?
The symposium is part of Chandler Unified’s response to incidents that made headlines in recent years, including racist statements made off-campus on social media by Santan Junior High School students in 2018, sexual abuse allegations by Hamilton High School football players against teammates from 2015 to 2017, and the deaths of several students and graduates from suicide, which have increased in the East Valley and statewide.
“As many of you are aware, over the last few years, words and actions have surfaced that do not cast us in a positive light,” said Chandler Unified Superintendent Dr. Camille Casteel in her speech opening the symposium at Hamilton High School on June 5, 2019. “Now, we are not unlike what is happening nationally, but nonetheless, it is unacceptable.”
In response to the incidents, Chandler Unified created a culture committee two years ago to focus on equity and inclusion, developed kindness and pay-it-forward initiatives, and worked with Black Mothers Forum, East Valley NAACP-Arizona and Diamond Strategies to revise its Diversity and Inclusion Resolution, which the district’s governing board passed unanimously.
Chandler Unified also hired Dr. Adama Sallu as director of equity and inclusion and Brenda Ramos as director of counseling and social services, began an equity initiative to recognize students as individuals, developed challenging content for students, employed culturally responsive teaching, started an Equity Community Council made up of staff members, parent groups, community groups and faith based organizations as well as an Equity Advisory Board made up of parents, teachers, support staff and administrators, and refocused its Journey 2025 metrics to focus on equity and inclusion.
Dr. Casteel said Chandler Unified has and continues to take steps to focus on equity and inclusion, which is its number one priority moving forward because “diversity, equity and collaboration on our school campuses and in all district operations are essential.”
“Frankly, we believe that if we can successfully develop a truly more inclusive, compassionate, equitable environment for all, that many of our other issues related to the increased incidents of suicide, depression, anxiety, bullying, and misconduct will be addressed,” Dr. Casteel said.Dr. Casteel asked everyone who works at Chandler Unified schools to “commit the time and effort it will take you personally and professionally to help us develop this culture where everyone is treated with value and respect.”
“The board and I realize this is not an overnight fix. It is going to take a conscious effort to change the way we look and interact in our world,” Dr. Casteel said. “I will tell you that, personally, I am overwhelmed at what lays before us, and at the same time, I am looking forward to the challenge because I believe if it can be done, it can be done here in Chandler Unified.”