U-46 to host four-day symposium on equity in education
Elgin Area School District U-46 will host its first online conference on equity in teaching practices, relationships, and social justice.
The four-day U-46 Equity Matters Symposium kicks off Monday and will feature keynote addresses from national education and equity leaders. District employees also will lead more than 45 breakout discussion sessions on relevant topics, including anti-bias education in early childhood, the power of student-teacher relationships, and restorative practices. A panel of U-46 students will discuss personal educational and life experiences.
This training is targeted for employees who interact with children at every level of U-46's organizational structure, from bus drivers to school board members.
"It is designed to give our teachers, administrators, other employees, and volunteers the space and resources to build their capacity to best support the diverse needs of staff and students," said Teresa Lance, U-46 assistant superintendent for equity and innovation. "We are rounding the corner of the pandemic, which we know really peeled back the layers of inequities in our entire school system."
The symposium is a direct response to a survey in which employees sought more training around social justice issues and how to put strategies into practice.
"Our staff members want to do better," Lance said. "We are beyond thrilled to convene so many incredibly knowledgeable and respected speakers in their field to inform and inspire our work moving forward in U-46. My goal is that this will be an annual event."
Access to the symposium events will be offered via Zoom to all U-46 employees and community volunteers, including those serving on the district's Community Advisory Council, the Alignment Collaborative for Education, the African-American Advisory Council and the Bilingual Parent Advisory Committee. Lance also has invited nine diversity, equity and inclusion leaders from surrounding districts.
Keynote speakers include:
• Dena Simmons, founder of LiberatED, which provides an anti-racist approach to social and emotional learning and healing. Simmons is the author of "White Rules for Black People."
• Gloria Ladson Billings, author of critically acclaimed book "The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children," and the former Kellner Family Distinguished Professor of Urban Education at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Billings has led numerous efforts to reduce the academic achievement gap of minority students.
• Richard Milner IV, a researcher, scholar, and leader in the fields of urban education and teacher education. He is the Cornelius Vanderbilt distinguished professor, chair of education and professor of education at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University.
• Gholdy Muhammad, an associate professor of language and literacy at Georgia State University and author of the best-selling book "Cultivating Genius: An Equity Model for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy."
Nearly 600 to 700 people are registered for each keynote address.
Among the sessions is bystander intervention training to stop anti-Asian and xenophobic harassment offered by Asian Americans Advancing Justice of Chicago, navigating gender and sexuality in schools, and creating LGBTQ-affirming settings.
"We know the urgency of reviewing, evaluating and reflecting on our practices and becoming more informed to ensure that we are reaching every student and to make sure our practices are unbiased," U-46 spokeswoman Mary Fergus said.