Name: Sarah El-Rahaiby
School: Hamilton Southeastern Intermediate / Jr. High
Area of Study: Visual Art
Provide an example of how you teach with an equity lens. It could be a specific lesson or strategies used over time.
I teach a diverse range of artists and try to stick to more modern subject matters than your typical European Art History. I think the more we dive into modern topics in art, the easier we can talk about and express what's going on in the world around us. It's important for ALL students to be represented and to see themselves in a role model.. of all ethnicities, race, faiths, sexual identity/orientation, etc. I'm consistently asking students to find their personal voice in art, to find what is important to them and what makes up who they are.
Why is equity and inclusion important to you?
I grew up in a Muslim household with immigrant parents from Libya. The culture at home did not match the culture at school, my brothers and I often struggled to find our place. I would be lying if I said it wasn't still a struggle to find that bridge. We have absolutely no extended family in the states, and no ability to visit easily. To add to that, we never learned our native language, Arabic. As young children, the school system told my parents that "we were behind in English," "confused," and that they "should only speak English around us." If only we had someone to express the importance of being bilingual, not just the importance of grammar (which I still struggle with) and keeping up with the rest of the kids. Such a small comment to my parents who were just trying to learn English themselves greatly impacted our lives.
What advice would you give for others about diversity, equity, and inclusion?
Have the conversation and come with an open mind and open heart.
Name: Matt Bockenfeld
School: Fishers High School
Area of Study: Ethnic Studies, U.S. History, World History
In his fifth year as a history teacher at Fishers High School, Matt Bockenfeld, a 2015 Indiana University graduate from Naperville, has had the opportunity to build the FHS Ethnic Studies program from the ground up. The class educates students about the intersection of race and identity in American life, and the invisible ways race plays a role in society.
When did you first become aware of the idea that people were treated differently than others?
It was a combination of a few different things. I grew up outside of Chicago, on the edge of a very affluent community that bordered a mostly Latino community that had a high crime rate and abject poverty. And my cousins were scattered across the city, so as a kid I was always moving back and forth across a bunch of different communities. So at an early age, I was asking questions about why these communities looked so different and why people seemed to be treated differently depending on where they were. Additionally, I have had the opportunity to travel to most states and several countries, opening my eyes to the differences and seeing the need to be more open to other cultures.
How has the Ethnic Studies program been received at Fishers High School?
There are some pretty significant challenges here, but they’re not unique to our city. As our city diversifies, we want to be on the front end of educating our young people about the need for an inclusive and equitable place to work and live. So far, we’ve had more than 200 students take our Ethnic Studies course in school.
What is the most fulfilling part of the job?
For me, it is seeing kids who are impacted by something you did in the classroom. That’s why we do what we do – to help kids find a sense of identity and purpose. It’s also important for me to provide a safe space for kids to be themselves.
Provide an example of how you teach with an equity lens?
We study the racial wealth gap and how it affects access to employment, healthcare and education. We look at the cycle of poverty that is rooted in segregation that persists to this day. We even look at topics in the book (and now movie) Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson to raise the issues of mandatory minimum sentences and the inequities within our criminal justice system. We like to think this is always a just nation, and the discussions in class force our students to ask harder questions about America and its history.
About the HSE Equity Coach Program
Equity coaches throughout Hamilton Southeastern Schools work with district and building-level educational leaders to foster a positive school climate and culture that creates an identity-safe environment for everyone. They do this by developing strategies to eradicate disproportionality, institutional racism, and systems that contribute to marginalization within the student population.