01/08/2013

Teaching Tolerance recognizes educators for excellence in teaching, inspiring students from diverse backgrounds

When the bell rings at schools across the nation, more teachers are finding themselves looking at a sea of young faces representing an array of racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

As the nation continues to grow more diverse, teachers must have the skills to reach every student in their classroom. Five educators who have demonstrated exceptional skill at engaging students from diverse backgrounds will be honored by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project on Jan. 25th in Washington, D.C.

These teachers will receive the Teaching Tolerance Award for Excellence in Culturally Responsive Teaching. Each educator will be presented with an award of $1,000. Video of their teaching techniques will be used to create professional development resources that will help educators across the nation better support students.

The winners, selected through a rigorous review process by an expert panel of teachers and scholars, are as follows:

  • Robert P. Sautter of Leonard R. Flynn Elementary School in San Francisco. Sautter begins each school day with a “community circle” in which students greet each other using their home languages and implements a partnership plan with parents so they can share their goals for their children.

  • Anna E. Baldwin of Arlee High School in Arlee, Mont. Baldwin teaches English, composition and speech, and multicultural literature on the Flathead Indian Reservation. About 70 percent of her students are of tribal descent, but she never makes generalizations about her students’ backgrounds. “Culture emanates from more than ethnicity,” Baldwin said. “There is teen culture, home culture, as well as traditional culture. So, I use [texts] that appeal to students’ interests, backgrounds and abilities.”

  • Laurence Tan of 122nd Street Elementary School in Los Angeles. The five pillars of learning inform Tan’s teaching – engage, educate, experience, empower and enact. He values each student’s identity and celebrates diversity, even asking families to share their expertise with students through mini-lessons.

  • Lhisa R. Almashy of Park Vista High School in Lake Worth, Fla. Almashy teaches English as a second language to ninth, 10th and 12th graders. Her key to success with English language learners is to teach them to integrate their home and school lives by taking the best from both cultures.

  • Darnell Fine of Atlanta Neighborhood Charter Middle School in Atlanta. Fine acknowledges the value of his students’ home cultures by hosting open forums, town hall meetings and Socratic seminars. “In my classroom, inclusion isn’t limited to celebrating cultural differences … [I provide] spaces for [students] to express their multiple perspectives,” Fine said.

 

A full biography and video of each winner can be viewed here.

“These educators have demonstrated remarkable skill for teaching and inspiring students from diverse backgrounds,” said Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance. “We hope this award not only recognizes these talented teachers but provides other educators with tools they can use in their classrooms.”

The awards ceremony will be held at The Pew Charitable Trusts D.C. Conference Center. The keynote presentation will be given by Lisa Delpit, author of Multiplication is for White People and Other People’s Children. Delpit is the Felton G. Clark Professor of Education at Southern University, Baton Rouge, La.

The event, organized by Education Week Teacher, also will feature panel discussions exploring the nature of culturally responsive teaching and its importance in schools. The ceremony can be watched live at 2 p.m. EST on Jan. 25 here.

For more than 20 years, Teaching Tolerance has provided anti-bias education resources to teachers across the country through its award-winning Teaching Tolerance magazine, multimedia teaching kits, online curricula, professional development resources and classroom-friendly social justice documentaries. These materials are provided to educators at no cost.