Cornell’s Diversity and Inclusion Certificate Program

Seema Meloni, one of the NEF’s co-presidents, recently spoke with Christopher Dancy, 6th grade science teacher at High Rock School, about his experience completing Cornell’s Diversity and Inclusion Certificate Program – professional development funded through an NEF grant. Here are some of the highlights from their conversation:

Q: For those unfamiliar with Cornell’s Diversity and Inclusion Certificate Program, could you please briefly explain the goals of the program and why you felt so compelled to enroll in the courses?

A: This certificate program represents a proactive response in addressing some of the inequities and tensions around xenophobia, homophobia, and racism that have been identified within NPS. While there has been a strong administrative response to these problems, NPS needs staff who have DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) expertise grounded in best practices and not solely personal experience. While Cornell’s D&I program in itself is not a solution to these problems, the completion of this certificate program represents a great first step in gaining expertise in a field that is so necessary to the health of Needham Public Schools. I’m thrilled to have completed it and am proud to identify myself as a professional who is skilled in the pedagogy of the DEI space.

Q: How does DEI work best?

A: I am proud to have partnered with the NEF in order to further conversations regarding equity within the district. In the public schools, DEI work is implemented with the youngest of minds in moments of the day which are not publicized, visible, or recorded. DEI work happens in private and small group conversations, teachable moments, and as direct responses to student questions. DEI work is most successful when there is mutual trust, mutual respect, and engagement in the process. The true value of this grant is not based on quantitative outcomes, but instead its value is a lasting investment in the culture of the classroom and the larger school community. For that, I am deeply grateful.

Q: How can we address current events through a DEI lens?

A: What’s particularly interesting about the completion and implementation of this grant, is the timing. The first six months of 2020 have proven to be historically unprecedented. During this time the world has been gripped by pandemic, remote teaching and learning over Zoom has become a reality, while our fellow Americans protest as a response to racism and the murder of George Floyd.  

Still, as teachers, we’ve continued to teach daily in this new remote paradigm.  

Through a DEI lens, the themes of equity, access, healthcare, employment, family dynamics, as well as school-based support structures for our most fragile students (ELL, Needham students of color, LGBTIAQ+) have all been highlighted during this time in the most personal and profound of ways.

While I have always engaged headfirst into conversations associated with the DEI space, I left Cornell’s Diversity and Inclusion program with a more honed set of skills, especially in the areas of engagement and inclusion. For some of my students, there was rage and fear as they grasped for understanding about the reasons why George Floyd was murdered. For others, there were questions about why neighbors, classmates, and the public were supporting BLM in the streets. For a few, we engaged in developmentally appropriate conversations regarding how their own opinions and beliefs were contrary to an inclusive culture.

Q: Now that you have completed this Certificate Program, what’s next?

A: As we look ahead towards the last half of 2020, our tasks ahead do not look any easier. A few of our considerations are: DESE’s recommendations for schools reopening in the fall, surging cases of COVID-19 across the country, continued BLM protests in response to police brutality, and what will prove to be a very divisive Presidential election. This year, more than ever, we will need DEI-trained teachers in order to develop culturally responsive classrooms. I am up to the challenge and am grateful for the opportunity to be a more effective partner in service of our students.

Cooking With Kids

Cooking With Kids was approved during the Fall 2019 Grant Cycle to fund the purchase of ingredients for a weekly cooking activity. The goal was for students to learn life skills in early learning classrooms. The cooking activity provided opportunities for various service providers to collaborate, and serves as a chance for reverse inclusion in which ELC general education peers can help with the activity and provide appropriate peer modeling.

While the current school year didn’t unfold as expected, we are thrilled to see that the weekly cooking activity for Sunita Williams ELC students has continued virtually! Each week, a cooking project provides an opportunity for students to work on a range of skills while continuing to stay connected.

NEF and NPS Thank the 2019-2020 Grant Recipients

Congratulations to all of the 2019 – 2020 NEF Grant recipients! We appreciate your time and effort in making learning come alive for Needham Public School students! This year, NEF awarded 26 grants, totaling $106,700, benefiting students at every Needham school.
 

We wish that we could have held our annual Grants Reception to celebrate with all of this year’s grant recipients, however this year, our celebration will need to be virtual. The NEF truly appreciates the time and effort grant recipients have put into applying for their grants. Needham Public School students benefit so much from their thoughtfulness and creativity.

Superintendent Daniel Gutekanst would like to thank the grant recipients for their dedication to innovation and creativity in education. Please click the link below to view his video message:

 

The NEF Co-Presidents Seema Meloni and Joanna Herrera would also like to share their appreciation:

 

 

2019 – 2020 NEF Grant Recipients

Ann Ahnert

“Language-based Student Stability Chairs” (Pollard)

Robyn Briggs

Co-Grant Writers: Kate Bergeron, Nicole Burnor

“Your Voice Matters. What’s Your Story?” (Needham High)

Claudia Carpenter

Co-Grant Writer: Christine McAllister

“Arts Education Professional Development Opportunity” (All Elementary)

Christopher Dancy

“Cornell’s Diversity and Inclusion Certificate Program” (High Rock)

Steve Dornbusch

“Charles Coe, Poet in Residence” (Pollard)

Jane Evans

“History At Play – “A Revolution of Her Own!” (Pollard)

Jennifer Grant

Co-Grant Writers: Maggie Charron, Jessica Downey, Jeannine Schroder

“Mindfulness at High Rock” (High Rock)

Hardeep Jassal

“Cooking For Kids” (Sunita Williams)

Elaine Kohen

“Professional Development at NSTA National Conference” (All Elementary)

Marissa Krantz

Co-Grant Writers: Erin Mack

“HR Digital Art Integration: Logitech Crayon Grant” (High Rock)

Cathy Lunetta

Co-Grant Writers: Luke Darling, Elizabeth Kuzmeski, Matthew Sylvestre

“Accessible Trike for 3rd Grade Rodeo” (All Elementary)

Molly Mullin

Co-Grant Writers: Jennifer Murray, Jennifer Potter

“Vox Books- Books that Talk! Express Grant Multi-school” (Broadmeadow, Eliot, Newman)

Catherine Nanda

Co-Grant Writer: Alejandra Acevedo

“Broadmeadow Lego Mobile Makerspace Grant” (Broadmeadow)

James Odierna

“PBLWorks Project Based Learning Workshop” (High Rock, Pollard, Needham High)

Anjali Petersen

Co-Grant Writer: Jane Shilalie

“Playful Learning: Enhancing Computational Thinking & Spatial Reasoning for All Learners through Mathematical Games” (Mitchell)

Rosemary Rose

Co-Grant Writer: Lynn Gotwals

“Sensory Pathways for Mitchell” (Mitchell)

Paige Rowse

“Author Jen Deaderick @TheNHSLibrary” (Needham High)

Jenn Scheck-Kahn

Co-Grant Writer: Rosemary Rose

“Sensory Pathways for Eliot” (Eliot)

Mackenzie Schnyer

Co-Grant Writers: Lisa Garsh, Angela Mullin, Lissa Williams

“Pedometers for Movement, Math, and More!” (Broadmeadow)

Kara Shea

Co-Grant Writer: Dayna DiCicco

“Google Virtual Reality Expeditions Kit” (All Elementary)

John Shea

Co-Grant Writers: Tammy Ghizzoni, Judith Wojtczak

“Math Recess: An experience in play and learning” (District-wide)

Mark Smith

“Pollard Middle School African Drum Program” (Pollard)

Jen Tuttelman

Co-Grant Writer: Patricia Mullen

“Grow Racks for NHS” (Needham High)

Erin Vacaro

“Imagination Playground Medium Blocks Set” (Sunita Williams)

Alison Weeks

Co-Grant Writers: Mary Beth Arigo, Laurie Blakely, Stephanie Hamel

“Brain Builder Breaks: Achieving Emotional Regulation through Constructive and Creative Projects” (Broadmeadow)

Karen Wilfrid

“Improv and the 4 C’s: Communication, Collaboration, Creativity and Critical Thinking” (Pollard)

 

NEF Funds Four Spring Grants Totaling $22,301

At the Needham School Committee meeting on Tuesday, the Needham Education Foundation (NEF) announced the recipients of four grants totaling $22,301 in the spring grant cycle. A multi-school grant will fund a 30-unit Virtual Reality Expeditions kit to be shared across all five elementary schools which will allow teachers to take their classes on virtual field trips.

Awarded grants also include:

  • 32 African drums will be used for strings students at Pollard to work on rhythm, timing, listening skills, and group dynamics. They will also be utilized in 7th and 8th grade classes for a unit on drumming technique and the history of West African drumming.
  • A set of medium blocks at Sunita Williams will be used for indoor recess, STEAM projects, buddy activities, and more by K-5 students.
  • With the help from student groups and teachers, a four-tiered indoor Terraponic grow rack will allow everyone at the High School to watch the process of plants growing from seed to plate. The grow rack will reside in the cafeteria where the produce will be served to students.

Making Space

This Fall 2018 grant funded a collaborative, school-wide art installation that visibly and functionally represents the mission to promote equity within Needham High School. The creation and installation of this structure will allow students and staff to explore important topics and have challenging conversations about race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, language, socioeconomic strata, immigration status, etc.

The NEF is very proud to have funded this grant at Needham High School to help students and staff continue their work on equity and inclusion.

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