Educators who support Dena Simmons & District 203’s Equity work

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This past county-wide institute day was truly the most excited I have been for a professional learning day in my 7 year teaching career as a Learning Behavior Specialist in Naperville Community District 203. I have a huge passion for inclusion, as those educators who attended my learning strand the Monday prior, could see. Inclusion is creating an environment where all individuals feel welcomed and supported—where all individuals have equitable opportunities to achieve their goals and dreams. Inclusion is for all. It doesn’t discriminate on the basis of disability, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. Inclusion demands hard work, self-reflection, empathy, and often uncomfortability that challenges us to confront our own biases and see every individual, not with a lens of color-blindness, but with a lens of entirety. Without this, it is impossible for us to recognize the struggles and tribulations each person faces and in turn it is impossible to continue to work towards a world where each individual can be anything they want to be no matter their cultural identity.

I would like to believe that all educators have these same beliefs and desires to be a better teacher and person than they were the day prior because our students deserve nothing less; however, I know this is not the case. The Federalist article about my district’s equity training showed just that. The article was filled with misinformation and racism—all because an educator refused to attend to the presenters with an open-mind; refused to put an effort into actually understanding the information, life experiences, and research being shared; refused to confront their own biases and prejudices head on; and refused to embrace empathy. I also know these viewpoints are not exclusive to this one educator. My colleagues and I also witnessed messages filled with implicit biases from other staff members in the q and a chat to the presenters.

The presenters, especially Dena Simmons—a Black woman, are now being targeted with racist and sexist harassment from people all over the world. As an educator in Illinois District 203, as a human being, I am disgusted. I am embarrassed. I am hurt. I am disheartened. I am especially worried about the negative impact this will have on our students and our greater community.

Our students look up to us more often than we know. They hear our words, they see our actions. We are supposed to be role models. We are supposed to be advocates. We are supposed to be lifelong learners.

Therefore, we need to make sure that this situation is only used to make us and our district work harder towards implementing policies and curriculum that support all students—especially those who are continually marginalized by the systems we have in place in our society.

I, Phoebe Conner, strongly stand with Dena Simmons and the other institute day presenters, which included student panels made up of individuals with disabilities, Black students, Asian-American students, LGBTQ+ students, Muslim students, and Hispanic/Latinx students. I fervently denounce The Federalist article, I vociferously denounce discrimination and prejudice everywhere. I promise to continue to do the anti-racist and other reflective work needed to be the best educator I can be for all of my students. And to be the best person I can be for all beings. I am thankful to District 203 for providing the professional development our staff needs in order to effectively serve our community and I ask the district to continue to provide such resources and trainings.

I would love for my District 203 colleagues and other educators to reaffirm the dedication they have to our students as well by signing this petition. Our students need to know that the negative sentiments recently stated are not representative of all staff members. We hear you. We see you. We love you. And we will continue to fight for you.

*I plan to present this petition to our board of education.

 

Phoebe C. Conner, NBCT

Learning Behavior Specialist – She/her/hers

LBSII: Transition & Multiple Disabilities Specialist

Adapted Cheer, Buddy Club, & BSLA Sponsor

Naperville North High School