Celebrating Tennessee’s Top Teacher Cicely Woodard, Metro Nashville Public Schools


Cicely Woodard, a middle school math teacher at West End Middle School and Metro Schools 2017-18 teacher of the year has been crowned Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year! See TN Education Commissioner Candice McQueen’s announcement at last night’s ceremony.

In addition to being an amazing educator, Ms. Woodard is also a leader among leaders eager to share her talents with other educators across the state. We are so proud to have a Metro Schools educator as the state’s top teacher! (I’m beaming and I don’t even know her!)

I want to thank Ms. Woodard for putting in the hard work and serving as a source of inspiration for her students and their families. Ms. Woodard is now the standard-bearer for excellence across the state, making her one of the best in the country.

Education in Nashville needed a win and Cicely Woodard’s win is something everyone can celebrate.


“The classroom presents a unique chance for young people and caring adults to build positive relationships with each other. It’s the place where teachers and students motivate each other to be their best selves. In the classroom we have a chance to help students to fall in love with learning and to understand the power of education.” – Cicely Woodard

To My Beloved School District: It’s Time We Have a ‘Come to Jesus’

Here’s what’s not going to happen: we are not about to be that school district. You know that district that shirks its responsibility for weaknesses by conjuring up ridiculous excuses, assigning blame, and withholding responses?

So far, the district has masterfully tap-danced around issues of water quality, dismal test scores, and sexual assaults. It’s time to stop dancing. These are mammoth issues that must be addressed proactively and earnestly.

Water is Life

I am dedicating this post to the two-year-old water quality issue. For as long as I’ve been in and around Metro Schools, I’ve never known the district to drag its feet on a matter that could harm the health of students. According to reports from NewsChannel 5 investigative reporter Phil Williams, many schools have had and still have dangerous amounts of lead in the water. This after the school district celebrated the fact they lead the state in testing for lead in the water.

Williams has expended an unbelievable amount of time on this issue and if I was still working at MNPS I’d be miffed at his unrelenting meddling. Still, his most recent report, Some MNPS Students Still Drinking Lead Contaminated Water, is revealing in that it exposes a school district with misplaced priorities. Even though the district tested fountains in every school, there are still schools with unsafe levels of lead in the water. Parents were not informed and, worse, our babies are still drinking the water.

So much time is spent on charging charter schools with taking money from traditional public schools, efforts to curb marketing to families, disputing building agreements, downplaying stellar testing results, attacking school leaders, and, yes, having fake parents. Meanwhile, a sort of environmental racism and classism is taking place in schools with the most poverty and children and color.

Y’all gotta stop playing with our kids, man.

Shout out to Phil Williams and blogger Thomas Weber for sticking with this story. Also, mad love to another MNPS parent who was so outraged she created a Facebook page Get the Lead Out dedicated to informing families about water quality issues in our schools.

Where I’ve been willing to give the district a pass, Weber always been very clear about the current administration’s handling of certain issues, water quality leading the list. I don’t regret giving the administration time to get acclimated to their new digs. but that grace period has long since passed.

Check out Weber’s most recent post No, The Water At MNPS Is Not Safe.

MNPS took the commendable action of having the water tested in its oldest buildings 2 years ago. Predictably, results came back that showed high levels of lead in several of our older schools. Schools that are made up of children from immigrant and impoverished homes. Schools like my children’s school.

Instead of taking these numbers, acknowledging the problems, and rectifying them, the district chose to issue a press release that disclosed none of the results and served as a congratulatory letter for merely testing the water. When they were challenged on the results and the lack of action, they issued another statement that claimed “The drinking water in the district’s oldest buildings meet all federal and state lead drinking water standards.” Sounds great, huh?

Tennessee’s Smallest Urban District Needs Speedy Turnaround for Distressed Schools

According to an article in the Times Free Press, Hamilton County Public Schools is in peril and what happens to children anywhere in Tennessee matters to all Tennesseans. Recently released state test scores show the district produced the lowest possible score in all areas but one. It doesn’t matter if you are not a fan of the type of assessment, standardized testing as a whole, or the robust reliance on high-stakes tests — results are results. We have them and must respond swiftly.

The district’s low performance certainly warrants the attention this article offers, but it misses a critical point that must be addressed. Though the writer points out disparities in performance among schools, he failed to spotlight the characteristics of the higher performing and lower performing schools.

Based on the 2015-2016 State Report Card, the student population at schools performing at the lower end is comprised of 90% or more students of color and high poverty. Meanwhile, the higher performing schools listed in the article are majority white students and minimal poverty. This narrative plays over and over again in school systems across the nation as schools with large vulnerable populations tend to have high concentrations of ineffective and/or the least experienced teachers, minimal parent engagement, a revolving door for principals, and little belief in the kids with the greatest needs.

We must be honest about the disparities among schools and groups of students. To bury or ignore this information is dishonest reporting and parents deserve better.

Incidentally, I have high hopes for the embattled district with its new superintendent Bryan Johnson who, by all accounts, was a strong leader in Clarksville/Montgomery County. Expecting a change in trajectory for our Chattanooga babies.

Read the Times Free Press article in its entirety.


As Summer Fades, Education Stories in Tennessee Heat Up and Urban Districts Are on the Hot Seat

And all at once summer collapsed into fall. – Oscar Wilde

I seriously cannot keep up with all the stuff going on in edu-world today – like Wednesday today, not the universal today. I’ve scrolled through a number of articles that forced a pause only to be preempted by the next pause-worthy story. It seems a perfect storm of good-to-great and bad-to-worse is converging upon us as the school year settles in and long-awaited test scores make an appearance. Let’s dig in, shall we?

A bit of good news…

Nashville’s crack edu-watcher and writer Zack Barnes recently went on a data bender and tweeted out the amazing growth outcomes for many of our schools – traditional and charter. The most fascinating chart shows a list of schools achieving the greatest growth (level 5) for the 2016-2017 school year.

Screenshot 2017-09-20 at 10.51.35 AM

Great for these schools!

Note to ponder: every level 5 performing school on this list is a magnet or charter except for the dual-enrollment Middle College.

Follow @zbarnes for more chart love!

Not so good news…

Did you see the story “Regular Public School Teachers Miss More School Than Charter School Teachers?” 

A study performed by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute found that on average traditional public school teachers miss 10 more of school than charter school teachers. The EdWeek article explores two possible reasons for this gap in teachers showing up to work — collective bargaining and school culture.

Screenshot 2017-09-20 at 9.57.47 AM

Teachers in traditional public schools are protected by unions that negotiate sick leave while the majority of charters are not unionized. For instance, Tennessee’s teachers are greatly protected by the Tennessee Education Association (MNEA in Nashville) while not one of Tennessee’s charter schools has union influence. Could that be the reason our traditional public school teachers miss 25.3% of school while charter teachers miss 7.6%?

Of the 6,900 charter schools nationally, about 1 in 10 have teachers’ unions. According to the report, 18 percent of teachers in unionized charter schools are chronically absent. It’s about half that in charter schools without unions.

Culture is the other possible explanation. Charter schools pride themselves on creating a culture of exceedingly high expectations for students, parents, and faculty.

Teachers who work in charters “agree to go there as an at-will employee in most cases,” said Miller, who once served as a president of his local teachers’ union in Palo Alto, Calif. “This means you’re buying into a school culture and a way of doing business. That doesn’t include the elaborate leave policies you can often find in a collective bargaining agreement.”

But the million dollar question is “does teacher chronic absenteeism affect student achievement?” The article briefly touches on a study by Raegan Miller, a Georgetown University researcher quoted in the article, that concludes math students fall behind and are less engaged when their teacher is chronically absent. I’m no researcher, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest the “less engaged” part of his conclusion is pretty important.

For the past two years, Tennessee (and Nashville, specifically) has been plotting and planning to triage the chronic absenteeism problem within our schools — for students. Maybe they are following the examples set before them? Don’t misunderstand me, parents need to be sure their child is in her seat, but if we have a problem with teachers showing up, then let’s make it, too, a prominently acknowledged and measured indicator for student success.

Downright ugly…

But most students in three of the state’s four largest districts — in Memphis, Nashville and Chattanooga — aren’t growing academically as they should, and neither are those in most of their “priority schools” in the state’s bottom 5 percent.

Tragically, the districts with the greatest number of vulnerable students are not growing. Hamilton County has gotten unwanted attention after scoring ones across-the-board except in one area. There is no shortage of articles about Memphis and their academic struggles, but Nashville has avoided the spotlight – until now.

Screenshot 2017-09-20 at 11.07.00 AM

An overall score of one is a sure-fire way to regain exposure – whether you want it or not.

Admittedly, I’ve been generous to the district that educated my entire family and helped me provide a nice life for us. Additionally, working hard every day are Metro School staffers I care for deeply making it more difficult for me to call foul when foul clearly needs to be screamed.

But where I’ve failed to acknowledge weaknesses in our district, fellow blogger Thomas Weber of Dad Gone Wild (norinad10) has been on the case- for years. While we tend to see things differently, I understand the importance of respecting different points of view

You never know, there might come a time when the two points of view converge.

Screenshot 2017-09-20 at 11.38.56 AM

No One Can Explain Widening Wage Gap Between Blacks and Whites And The Elephant in the Room Is Not Happy

Last week The Washington Post published on its opinion page the most infuriating piece I’ve read in a long time. The opinion-piece by Robert Samuelson titled “The growing black-white wage gap is growing — and it’s scary” is, dare I say, scary.

The basis for Samuelson’s opinion-piece is a study published by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco which offers five possible reasons why black men earn only 70% of white men’s earnings (down from 80% a few short years ago) and black women earn only 82% of what white women earn:

  1. Education
  2. Age
  3. Geography
  4. Occupation/industry
  5. Part-time status

The reasons are quantifiable and academic potentially protecting the study from any real resistance, but, disappointingly, before things get kicked off in the study, the researchers concede failure in identifying an explanation for the consistently widening wage gap:

Especially troubling is the growing unexplained portion of the divergence in earnings for blacks relative to whites.

Samuelson acknowledges the San Francisco study’s failure to explain the growing gap and cites an earlier study published by Federal Reserve economists out of D.C. that offers an entirely different set of possibilities for the “unexplained” increased in the wage gap since 1979.

  1. Blacks are undereducated
  2. Black men are incarcerated at higher rates
  3. Outright discrimination (ya think?)

The economists in both studies go out of their way to blame black people for their own unemployment, underemployment, and poor and disparate salaries. Unfortunately, Samuelson falls in lockstep with the blame game with his repeated use of “unexplained” refusing to acknowledge the truth of structural racism that feeds our education and criminal justice systems and fails to call out the cognitive dissonance of those bleeding hearts who talk about diversity but fail to walk it.

I get it — it’s difficult to quantify something as insidious as structural racism or the discriminatory thoughts of those with the power and means to hire. But just because we can’t (or won’t) attach percentages to the generational barriers many are born up against, doesn’t mean they are not there. Any failure to acknowledge this American-bred construct dissolves all credibility.

A final exasperating thought from the article:

Another hypothesis — consistent with poor schooling — is that employers value achievement, as measured by test scores, as much as degrees, says economist Harry Holzer of Georgetown University, chief economist of the Labor Department in the Clinton administration. “There are big racial gaps in achievement” that could be depressing black wages. “But we really don’t know,” he says.

Nationally, our public school system is plagued with low-performing schools churning out underperforming students and dropouts often leading to incarceration, unplanned families, and poverty. We are all well-educated about the evils of this cycle, yet we allow it, and then lay blame to the products of it. 


Read the full opinion piece– if you can stomach it.


1,012 Nashville Public Charter School Parents Resolve to Stand Up, Speak Up, and Lift Up

At tonight’s school board meeting, a letter signed by 1,012 charter school parents was distributed to each school board member and the director of schools demanding a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T – again.

You may remember last Spring’s letter to the editor signed by 374 charter school parents respectfully requesting to be held in the same regard as other public school parents. The heartfelt plea for basic respect ultimately became mocking material for a school board member.

Well, this is the “hold my beer” version. And they are not playing… PowerUP!

September 12, 2017

To the Metro Nashville Public School Board and Dr. Shawn Joseph:

We are signing this letter as 1,012 representatives of the thousands of parents across
Davidson County who have chosen to send their children to Nashville’s public charter
schools. Our children attend every public charter school in Nashville: East End Prep,
Explore!, Intrepid College Prep, KIPP Academy Nashville, Knowledge Academies, LEAD
Public Schools, Nashville Classical, New Vision Academy, Purpose Prep, RePublic
Schools, Rocketship, Smithson-Craighead Academy, STEM Prep, Strive Collegiate
Academy and Valor Collegiate Academies.

Some of us signed a letter last spring asking for the public charter-focused attacks from
some of your members to stop and for you, our elected school board, to come together and focus on making all Nashville schools excellent.

Since that time we, along with many of our fellow public charter school parents, have been dismayed to see that on June 27, 2017, you were unable (or unwilling) to pass a resolution committing to treat us, our children and our public schools with the same respect as the rest of Nashville’s schools.

And so, as we begin another school year with our children enrolled in MNPS Public Charter Schools, we have come together to proudly support our public charter schools and to send to you a resolution of our own.

Here are OUR commitments related to the education of our children:
We resolve to stand up. We will continue to stand up for our children and for our right to choose the education that best fits their needs. Across our city, families exercise choice every time they buy a home, complete an application, or look at magnet schools. Choice schools that partner with families, offer transportation, and engage communities deserve recognition rather than scorn.
We resolve to speak up. Parents in Nashville deserve to know about the great work happening in our schools and to know that they, too, have choices. Leaders in Nashville deserve to know about our system’s bright spots. We will continue to ask this Board to recognize that our children and families are part of this district and, in many cases, our schools are among the district’s strongest.
We resolve to lift up. Our children deserve to know that their socioeconomic status DOES NOT and WILL NOT define their ability to learn. Our elected officials should use their bully pulpit to highlight what is possible for our city’s most vulnerable children and families. Likewise, we believe that the conversation about schools needs to change. We will model civility by respecting diverse viewpoints, using facts to support our beliefs, and operating with humble spirits. We resolve to never resort to name calling, partial-truths, or libelous attacks.

We hope that our commitments set forth here will inspire you to make a similar commitment to do the job you were each elected to do. We look forward to seeing you commit to a focus on ensuring that ALL Nashville children have the ability to attend great public schools. We look forward to the day when a public school family knows that they can make the best choice for their children without receiving the worst treatment from our elected officials.

Thank you.

1,012 Proud Nashville Public Charter School Parents

Martha Abarca
Salwa Abbas
Abay Abdalla
Nadia Abdalla
Adan Abdi Kokani
Lamees Abdul Shaheed
Bieri Abdulah
Daisy Aboagye
Ebalo Abonga
Dirie Abshir
Muhubo Adan
Edna Adana
Mohamed Aden
Stephani Adkins
Lilian Adqui
Guadalupe Aguilar
Sergio Aguilar
Eman Ahmed
Claudia Ahuet
Kauther Ajaj
Nnodi Ajoku
Gabrielle Akins
Zainar Alaqqad
Delmira Albanez
Ericka Alexander
Saadia Ali
Hibo Ali
Shamso Ali
Whitney Allen
Takiesha Allen
Alisha Allen

Zeinab AlQadree
Ashwak Alrazak
Jassim Alsarhan
Faris Altamimi
Erika Alvarado
Angela Alvarado
Maria Alvarez
Edna Alvarez
Patty Alvarez
Samer Amer
Melissa Amrhein
Hawa Amuri
Natashia Andrews
Lisa Andrews-Young
Marcia Anthony
Dominique Appleton
Sandra Aquilar
Isabel Aranda
Elsa Arevalo
Maria Argentina Calderon
Amron Ari
Hayde Arias
Alene Arnold
Leticia Arredondo
Maria Asela Sanchez
Kathy Ashworth
Kelly Astolos
Francisca Avila
Hany Ayad

Maricruz Ayala
Manel Azer
Heba Aziz
Kalvin Baker
Kathy Baker
Neyvi Balderas
Kara Baldwin
Alexandra Ball
Tomorrow Ballard
Mustefa Bame
Hassan Bangura
Brittany Barbe
Jessica Barefield
Nichelle Barksdale
Laura Barnes
Brittany Barnes
Laura Barnes
Cira Barranco
Veronica Barrera
Carla Barrios Benitez
Barsoum Barsoum
Hanan Basaly
Gopi Basnet
Kenya Bass
Hanaa Basta
Gwendolyn Battiste
Lara Bauchiero
Ashley Baxter
Brenda Bean
Jasmine Bean
Leslie Becker

Tawharrah Behar
Doneisha Bell
Rashad Bell
LaVonda Bell
Jennifer Bender
Yolanda Bernal
Maria Bernale
Veronda Berry
LeQuesha Berry
Claria Bertran
Simon Besada
Aileen Biete
Katashia Bigsby
Miranda Bills
Rebekah Bitzer
Ryan Bitzer
Jeremiah Bivins
Jessica Bivins
Marquita Black
Robyn Blake
Erika Blanco
Ebonie Bluing
Brittani Boleyjack
Jacqueline Booker
Phillip Booker
Faustine Borranco
Samia Botan
Chasity Boyd
Jomekia Braden
Kameron Brainard
Jaronda Braithwaite
Kimberly Branch
Evelia Bravo
Christopher Brenner
Jacqueline Brewster
Lee Broadwell
Melissa Broadwell
Ebony Brodie
Angel Brooks
Courtland Brooks-James
Ashaunda Brown
Sada Brown

Chenera Brown
Jennifer Brown
Amanda Brown
Tangia Bryant
William Bryant
LaToya Bryant
Paige L. Buchanon
DeAngelo Buford
Shiwshia Buford
Cornelia Buntin
Melanie Burnett
Jadia Burns
Lesly Buruca Garcia
Samera Busally
Terri Bush
LeKiecia Butler
Angela Butler
Blanca Calderon
Golding Calix
Eastern Campbell
Kendra Campbell
Trudy Campbell
Tonya Campbell
Sonia Campos
Berneice Cansino
Claudia Cardenas
Dane Carder
Danielle Carder
Jennifer Carlisle
Sandy Carrillo Santos
Morecca Carter
Lemeka Caruthers
Bany Castillo
Gyovanna Castillo
Ana Castillo
Ana Rosa Castro
Maria Chacon
Rose Chamber
Brittany Chapman
Taneshia Chase
Liliana Chavarria
Oralia Chaverria Lopez

Maria Guadalupe Chavez
Teresa Chavez
Teddy Chuquimia
Lillian Cisneros
Erwin Citavez
Andrea Clark
Takarra Clark
Patricia Clark
Shalisa Clayd
Maria Coceros
Tosha Colas
Leslii Congden
Erica Conn
Antonio Contreras
Franklin Corea
Maria Cornejo
Krista Correnti
Brittany Cosby
Gennyfer D. Coss
Jessica Couch
Robert Covington
LaWanda J. Crawford
Andre Crenshaw
LaCrisha Crooms
Christina Crump
Tandrea Crump
Hector Cruz
Pablo Cruz
Ismael Cruz
Virginia Cruz
Maria Cruz Gomez
Margarita Cruz Rodriguez
Silvia Cuellar
Martha Cuellar
Latoya Curly
Antonio Damian
Kellie Dandridge
Roashanda Daniels
Rashonda Daniels
Monica Davidson
Natasha Davidson
Cherielle Davis

Tamekia Davis
Tysheka Davis
Ebony Davis
Kanitha Davis
Esteban De Jesus
Juan Luis de la Cruz
Nancy de Leon
Udom Deu
Mulu Deyo
Maria Diaz
Patricia Diaz
Kim Dickens
Veronika Dickerson
Hamima Dida
Frank Dirr
Twilia Dixon
Breonna Dockins
Devonte Dockins
Cornelio Domingo
Ema Dominguez
Robert Donaldson, Jr
Sherreese Dones
Josephine Donkor
Cheryl Donnell
Natasha Dorsey
Mike Douglas
Sherry Douglas
Shani Dowell
Shannon Dowell
Kristen Downs
Nataleigh Drew
Latoya Dudley
Brittany Duke
Tara Dulin
Heather Dunn
Michelle Durham
Areej Dwikat
Ashley Eades
Kareem Ebied
Philopos Ebrahim
Jason Egly
Kelley Eguakun

Kareen Eleied
Dora Elias
Nevy Ellis
Bernadette Ellsworth
Josh Elrod
Daysi Elvir
Myra Emerton
Tabitha Emerton
Mwangabwoba Jean
Nakia Esaw
Maribel Espinoza
Denia Espinoza
Gladys Estrada
Crystal Evans
Jennifer Evans
Angel Ewing
Farag Fahim
Anna Fahrenholz
John Fahrenholz
Aida Faltus
Rahma Farah
Neven Fares
Tony Farr
Dan Favors
Veda Favors
Andrea Fenderson
Jateka Ferguson
Irma Fernandez
Sara Fernandez
Ethan Fesperman
Dakini Fields
Curtis Fields
Alexandria Figueroa
Jamie Fischer
Monique Fisher
Valerie Fisher
Megan Fitchuk
Jeana Fletcher
Chelsea Florence
Esmerelda Flores
Tina Flores

Ana Flores
Norma Flores
D. Van Ford
Tracy Foster
Seda Franchesa
Derrick Free
Gloribel Fuentes Avalos
Fawzy Gad
Antronica Gaines
Ahi Galal
Rozhan Galnasky
Fabiolo Garcia
Gladis Garcia
Jaqueline Garcia
Kamisha Garcia
Maria Garcia
Adriano Garcia
Abraham Garcia
Maricela Garcia
Yurisa Garcia
Yadira Garcia
Tenisha Gardner
Hortencia Gareia
Alejandra Garibay Ramirez
Jennifer Garner
Javier Garrido Carrasco
Seife Gashaw
Michael Gatson
Abdulameir Gaudan
Tesfaye Gebisso
Samya Gerges
Rasha Gerges
Mariana Gergis
Zara Ghaderi
Rozalen Ghaly
Maria Gijon Jimenez
Leah Gillen
Ronnie Givens
Grace Gleaves
Shaunese Gleaves
Courtney Glenn
Norys Godos

Huda Gold
Concepcion Gomez
Rebecca Gomez
Concepcion Gomez
Ana J. Gonsales
Yelitza Gonzales
Hector Gonzalez
Juana Gonzalez
Margiana Gonzalez
Reyna Gonzalez
Hilda Gonzalez
Zaira Gonzalez
Melinda E. Goodwin
Victoria Gordon
Tabitha Gordon
Dwight Gordon II
Judy K. Gower
Mayra Gracia
Milton Gray
Christina Greer
Felix Gresham
Esmeralda Guereca
Angelica Guerra Garcia
Dolores Guevera
Maria Guillen
Francisco Guzman
Vaneska H
Angel Habib
Ahmad Haidous
Chinee Hall
Dante Hall
Tikiana Hall
Lakesha Hall
Beonke Hambrick
Rocquel Hambrick
Manal Hanna
Leisa Hans
Bethany Hanserd
Bethany Hanserd
Sherickea Hardison
Ebony Harris

Tamica Harris
John Harris
Lashonda Harris
Taylor Harris
Layla Hasan
Farhiyo Hashi
Zahra Hassan
Heath Hatcher
Monica Haugabook
Minnie Hawkins
Jennifer Hayes
Ebenezer Hayford
Tremayne Haymer
George T. Haynes
Jodi Hays Gresham
Carlice Hendrix
Maggie Hendrix
Johanna Hern
Emilio Hernandez
Elizabeth Hernandez
Enriqueta Hernandez
Leticia Hernandez
Maria Hernandez
Amanda Hernandez
Juan Hernandez Sebastian
Soada Hersi
James W Hewlett
Tomeka Hicks
Curtis Hickson
Lee-Ann Higgins
Michael Higgins
Sandra Hill
Mamawah Hill
Brittany A. Hill
Jordan Hines
Angelica Hinojosa Cordero
Simone Hodges
Virginia Holland
Jasmine Holmes
Maria Honorato
Celina Hortado
Jeralyn Horton

Tina Houck
Jason Howarth
Aidan Hoyal
Sade Huddleston
Brittany Hudson
Eustalia Huerta
Shericka Hughes
Keenan Humphrey
Shirelle Humphrey
Fatima Hunter-Brown
Shwan Hussein
Alicianiah Hussein
Yousef Husseini
Alondra Ibanez Martinez
Monica Illescas Palma
Zyara Intisar
Latoya Isaacs
Mariam Ishak
Mahabad Jabbary
Jennifer Jackson
Adrienne James
Donna Jean-Jumeau
Sherae Jefferson
Amor Jimenez
Celia Jimenez
Kendra Johnson
LaTori Johnson
Wykisha Johnson
Tearra Johnson
Chandra Johnson
Danielle Johnson
LaTasha Johnson
Tarleshia Johnson
Tiffany Johnson
Xavier Johnson
Christina Johnson
Joyce Johnson-Gardner
Adele Johnson-Kebe
Crystal Jones
Rochelle Jones
James Jones
Lisa Jones

Torean Jones
Kelvin Jones
Ki’Dejah Jones
Tira Jones
Arita Jones
Felton Jones Jr.
Joycelyn Jordan
Fanta Kallon
Elizabeth Keeler
Patrice Kendrick
JaTavia Kennedy
Teya Kergo
Krystal Keys
LaTonya King
Latonya King
Desiree King
Jackie Klaver
Tara Knight
Mohammed Kokoy
Kofi Kutten
Ebenezer Kwaw-Mensah
Ester Labeb
Halima Labi
Luis Lago
Chiquita Lambert
Cynthia Lamptey
Nii Lamptey
Kayla Lamson
Barbara Lane
Laura LaPrad
Louis LaPrad
German Lara Paredes
Guillermo Larrea
Bassima Lassin
Gaylene Latham
Jason Latham
Myrtesa Lawrence
Shenika Lawrence
Robbie Laymon
Evelin C Lazo
Kelly Lebel
Heather Lee

Kelli Lee
Monterey Lee, Sr.
Shamakia Legges- Lyons
Kris Leggett
Teresa Leggs
Iris Lemus
Karla Leon
Lovie Lester
Natalie Levi-Sousan
Kenia Leyva
Natividad Leyva
Deb Linn
Sarah Litten
Megan Long
Yesenia Lopez
Anayeli Marcia Lopez
Fanny Lopez
Fatima Lopez
Liliana Lopez
Brenda Lopez
Elizabeth Louie
Michael Love
Abigail Lozano
Carina Lozano
Reyna Lozano
Manuel Lozano
Celia Luna
Blanca Luna
Erica Lyons
Margarita Magdaleno
Aldigani Mahamud
Naseema Mahmoud
Kenia Mairena
Irma Maldonado
April Malone
Jose Mancilla
Sheena Maness
Irene Maqueda
Kesha March
Tomika Marks
Maria Marrufo
Lori Marsh

Carly Marshall
Carla Marshall
Geneva Martin
Ashlie Martin
Kathy Martin
Katy Martin
Jorge Martinez
Anwor Marzouk
Shaun Mason
Jude Mason
Stephen Mason
Hanan Masoud
Yossay Matos
Andreus Matthews
Natashia Matthews
Helen Matusala
Shaleeta McAdoo
Angela McCorkle
Kristi McDougal
Kate McGowan
Alisa McKissack
Tiffany McKnight
Sheron McLaurine
Shaneka McLemore
Jade McMath
Brent McMillian
Marcy McMillian
Esther McNeil
Nesreen Mechil
Elida Medina
Robyn Meeks
Ana Melgar
Jorge Melgar
Sandra Mendoza
LaShurida Meredith
Jim Messer
Rob Metcalf
Blair Metcalf
Nely Meza Lagunes
Michael Milad
Jamal Miles
Leslie Miles

Stephanie Miller
Jennifer Miller
Cecilia Miller
Heriberto Miranda
Shaka Mitchell
Stephanie Mitchell
Austin Mitchell
Leslie Mitchell
Tina Mitchell
LaNeise D. Mitchell-Hayes
Dionna Mobley
Janet Mobry
Merima Mohammed
Abdulqadir Mohammed
Muriu Moldanado
Carmen Molina
German Molina
Avikki Monts
Maria A. Moore
Anjanette Moore
Aaronnetta Moore
Anita Moore
Dedrick Moore
Marquita Moore
Tamecia Moore
Rachel Moore-Beard
Leautrice Moorer
Bertha Morales
Rosa Morales
Juan Morales
Karina Moran
Claudia Moreno
Maria Moreno
Akram Morkos
Hanan Morkos
Nicole Morris
Mary Morris
Soheir Mosad
Charasma Moseley
Amina Muhamed
Ashley Muller
Aracely Munguia Lopez

Araceli Munoz Pastrana
Claire Munyankindi
Ahmed Musonera
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Teresa ZaragozaInsilar Zyara

Insilar Zyara

In Times of Upheaval, Teachers and Spiritual Leaders Calm Minds and Feed Souls

Exactly twenty-eight days ago, filled with anger and a hint of disgust at the display of hatred and depravity at Charlottesville, VA., I tweeted out:

Classroom and The Pulpit

As I wrangled with the events at and surrounding Charlottesville, I couldn’t help but think about today’s youth entering classrooms to learn about the various battles during civil wars when there is no shortage of history-making battles occurring just outside the schoolhouse steps. Since it was Sunday morning, my mind shifted to adults looking to their spiritual leaders for two-thousand-year old answers to modern-day mysteries.

In my mind, the classroom and the pulpit are the most influential platforms in our lives -save for media. Teachers and spiritual leaders have captive, pliable audiences ready and willing to receive instruction and wisdom. These trusted public servants help us think critically about the world in which we live and equip us with the tools to navigate toward a better tomorrow.

I’ve heard from teachers instructed not to mention the events at Charlottesville to students and witnessed teachers on social media working creatively to integrate current events into lesson plans in a valiant effort to satisfy both state and moral obligations.

Thankfully, in the four weeks since that tweet, I’ve been fortunate to experience answers to my questions.

Teaching and Preaching

Last Friday, I joined the ProjectLIT book club at Maplewood High School, where the LIT teacher Jarred Amato leads discussions on the book of the month, books relevant to current day issues and to the students he teaches. Two days later, I visited a church whose theme for September is “Timeless Principles for Perilous Times” and the sermon for the day was “Silence is Not an Option.” The unvarnished, powerfully delivered sermon offered by Pastor John Faison, Sr. of Watson Grove Missionary Baptist Church is one for the ages and just the tea the nation needs right now. In the words of Pastor Faison, “silence recycles injustice.” Amen.

Amato and Faison are not the lone agents of courage and compassion who have accepted the enormous and unpopular responsibility of influencing social justice change through their respective platforms. And since Charlottesville our country was again shaken, this time by the president’s announcement to dissolve Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), removing protections for undocumented youth.

In response to the DACA debacle, I’m reminded of a group of teachers, the DREAM keepers, and the strong message widely distributed defending their current and former DACA students. I also think of Jesuit priest Fr. James Martin courageously tweeting statements of unconditional love for DACA recipients and denouncing actions against them.


I am grateful for these acts of love for our sisters and brothers by protesting injustice through teaching and sharing. We need more of it.