Equity, Justice, and Anti-Racist Teaching: A Journey

Editor’s Note: Dr. Kathy Leo-Nyquist retired from Champlain College at the end of the 2021-2022 academic year. She wrote the following in late autumn 2021 and shared it with us when we were creating our post on DEI-and-teaching reading recommendations. Kathy kindly granted permission for us to edit this piece as a standalone blog post. It has been lightly edited.

“One of the greatest learning lessons . . . is that sometimes diving into the deep darkness inside of us is the only way we rise above it. And for me that means—whether as an educator, writer, student—if I was going to see hope in the future, I would need to open up my eyes to the hurt and open up my eyes to the pain. Only by recognizing the scar can we begin to mend.”

Amanda Gorman, poet and activist, NCTE 2021

In the last few years, I have been upping my knowledge and collecting resources to support my learning (and that of my students) in the areas of social justice pedagogy, anti-racist teaching, and especially children’s and young adult literature. My goal is to support difficult conversations using the vehicle of literature. I had the excellent experience of attending the 2021 National Council of Teachers of English Convention (an organization that puts out incredible journals and workshops), titled “Equity, Justice, and Anti-Racist Teaching.” I also attended the two-day Assembly of Young Adult Literature post-convention event, which was smaller and more intimate. I was in virtual rooms with some of my favorite authors and educators.

I’m riding high on the energy of these educators, authors, and public intellectuals, who are working to move the needle around equity, justice, and anti-racism with young people! We all have so much to learn as we dig deeper into this work. What a cast of characters:

…and so on and on!

To share the words of just one of the inspiring speakers:

“Equity is the word that is going to save our children. It is the word that is going to save our youth. Equity ensures that all youth have an even playing field. It is not simply just equality. It is not simply just that every student has a right to books. Equity ensures that every student has a right to books and to stories that look like them, that sound like them, that are in a language they understand, that have their very same lived experiences, and give them the tools and the resources they need for the specific intersections of identities that they have.”

George M. Johnson, Journalist, author, and activist, ncte 2021
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