“Sharing space with other educators is so important. A lot of times teachers like to have space to share ideas, share the struggles, share some possible solutions, and brainstorm together. I think that there’s just some kind of fellowship or community aspect of it that I think is valuable for educators.”
A space for finding solutions and fellowship. This is what Education Specialist Emily Baker is looking to provide, as she and fellow Education Specialist Courtney Young facilitate a Region 16 Comprehensive Center professional book study.
Educators from across the region are invited to discuss “We Got This: Equity, Access, and the Quest to Be Who Our Students Need Us to Be” by Cornelius Minor.
“A huge takeaway will just be partnerships,” says Young. “When we teach in buildings with rooms, sometimes you don’t go to your neighbor’s room. Sometimes you don’t go to the art side of the building or the math side of the building.
“I think this environment will give teachers, especially from the same school or from the same region a partner to go to and ‘say hey did you try that thing that Region 16 Comprehensive Center was doing?’”
Baker and Young have been involved in education circles for a while now.
Baker is a born and raised Alaskan and taught in the Anchorage School District for 12 years. She taught high school English and Spanish before switching to elementary teaching at a K-8, Waldorf-inspired charter school where she developed their Spanish program.
She also started the Education Leadership Program at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Young has taught at various high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools. Her husband’s military career allowed her to experience these multiple levels of education from a wide array of locations, including her home state of Louisiana, Japan, Korea, and Alaska, where she currently resides.
Two years ago, she obtained her master’s in curriculum and instruction.
Both women started working at SERRC (Southeast Regional Resource Center) last July.
Professional book studies aren’t their main focus as professional developers, but this won’t be their first rodeo. They handle at least two professional development events of various types a month and often more.
But professional book studies with material like this one are precisely the kind that brings them joy.
“A lot of times when I read professional development books, I feel like they’re talking from a leadership standpoint or a researcher perspective,” said Baker. “I really feel like when I read this book that I’m teaching right alongside Cornelius Minor. I feel like I’m in the classroom with him and that he’s not so far removed from the daily struggles and challenges that teachers face.”
“Collectively we came together, and all wanted to choose a book that was championing teachers at this time,” continued Young. “We wanted to pick a book that was still very powerful and important but didn’t come from a standpoint of being preachy.”
“I remember this book,” adds Baker. “I read it, I put it down, and I actually remembered the book. I remembered the stories. I remembered the strategies. That’s a testament to how powerful it is.”
While statistics and research are very valid in teaching circles, this book isn’t about data points or whatever conclusion a researcher who barely sees the inside of a classroom has printed.
It’s about championing educators and helping them realize how they can reclaim their power in the classroom. It’s about creating spaces for students to be successful alongside the educators. It’s about how to truly have a positive and culturally responsive climate within the classroom.
Instead of data, it’s filled with relatable anecdotes that treat the readers as regular, everyday people and understand teachers’ issues, issues they actually have complete control over and can change for the better.
“I think his vulnerability, it’s very endearing,” says Baker. “That’s why you feel like you’re teaching alongside a friend. A lot of these books, the authors don’t put themselves out there and share a personal story of something they witnessed or were a part of and he definitely does.”
“And he makes it about the kids,” continues Young. “Students have to be at the core. It can’t just be about the emotional work of the educator. The book is about how to center students and what we can do to serve them.”
Baker and Young believe that coupling that kind of inspiring material with the discussion between educators from across region 16 will create a long-lasting, positive impact within education across the region.
The We Got This professional book study began March 9th and is running through April 13th with 37 educational leaders.