Teaching in Solidarity with Black Lives: Towards an equitable future

Spark Teacher Education Institute will facilitate online learning communities aimed at building curricula that centers Black lives and equity.  With the goal of democratizing  knowledge, the expertise will come from participants as they  commit to study and reflection. We will co-construct curriculum and interrogate our pedagogy to inform our teaching practices.

You will receive 15 hours of  professional development credits (that includes meetings and independent work), with the possibility of continuing into the year for graduate credits. 

There will be 3 groups to choose from: Science/Math, Humanities, and Early Childhood/Elementary (for more details see below). Contact us for sliding scale costs. 

Join us! Fill out this form to apply! 

contact SparkTeacherEdVT@gmail.com for more information! 

Why Join this PD? 

Practitioners and scholars have been urging teachers to centralize equity and Black lives in pedagogy and curricula for over two decades. Gloria Ladson-Billings, a distinguished professor of education and critical race scholar, points to the historic education debt (not “achievement gap”) placed upon Black students which is reflected in their over-representation in punishment, expulsions, and special education. Teaching in support of Black lives and equity is more than just methods or adding a social justice lesson. Teachers need to investigate and challenge white supremacy in their pedagogy and curricula to move the center.  Teaching in support of Black Lives is an opportunity for educators to connect a long history of racialized inequities to school based practices, curriculum, and broader structures of schooling. These sessions are organized to offer a place for questioning and active collaboration to forge new paths of inquiry and initiatives in your schools and broader communities.

Spark Teacher Education Institute has been working with teachers for 18 years to centralize the experiences of working people, women, and people of color, in order to teach against exploitation and build an equitable world for all. Spark Teacher Education Institute was started by Janaki Natarajan and offers teacher certification in Social Justice Education.  Teachers learn the social justice pedagogy and  political economy.  Participants work side-by-side for an entire year with a skilled mentor teacher, learning to integrate social justice and equity content into the mainstream curriculum. The program strives to instill an understanding of self and others in conjunction with the development of skills, knowledge, critical thinking and compassion required for creating an equitable and engaging learning environment for all learners.

Groups for PD Sessions: 

Dr. Janaki Natarajan is an educator/activist who has taught in Tanzania, China, South India, Washington D.C., and currently co-directs the Spark Teacher Education Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont. 

STEM (Group 1)

Racialized injustices and structural inequities in STEM (see NCTM statementNCTM report),  behoove us as educators to critically examine mathematics and science teaching and learning by investigating our curriculum and pedagogy.  Throughout this professional development course, we will examine and work to shape: How we take up a call to teach in support of Black lives? What knowledges and histories shape our approaches to mathematics and science education? What histories and knowledge are silenced? And how can we actively shape learning in our classrooms, schools, and communities to create a just society?

Atasi Das  is a current doctoral candidate of Urban Education at The City University of New York, a former public school educator, and SPARK alumni. She is also the co-host of the Abolition Science Radio podcast. 

Cory Sorensen currently teaches 4th grade in Guilford Vermont. He has spent the last three years focusing on 4th adn 5th grade math and incorporating social justice issues into all curricular activity. He is a member of the WSESU office of diversity, equity and social justice. 

Humanities (Group 2)  

Racism continues in large part from what we do or don’t teach our students. In eurocentric curriculums, students often only learn about black experience in America through a unit about slavery and a unit about the civi rights movement, continuing the idea that racism is something of the past. We need to build our curriculums so that students understand that history lays the foundation for where we are today, and it is the resistance of many that creates a better world for all. 

Nina Kunimoto taught secondary social studies and humanities and currently teaches Global Social Problems at the Community College of Vermont. She is also a PhD student at the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Urban Education, Leadership and Policy program. She is a Spark alum and one of the hosts on Indigo Radio. 

Becca Polk teaches middle school social studies and is part of the equity working group for the school district. She is a Spark alumni and one of the hosts of Indigo Radio. Check out our recent show about the youth led protest for BLM

Early Ed/Elementary (Group 3) 

Teaching in support of black lives at an early age requires us to be clear about our own thinking. This is essential because racism permeates society and is passed to children both implicitly and explicitly.   How do we help young children to see everyone’s humanity as connected to their own lives? How do we help students to think critically about the world and strengthen their sense of justice and fairness? How do we extend our practice of caring and open ways of relating to one another?   

Mikaela Simms is the co-director of the Spark Teacher Education Institute and the Diversity Coordinator for the Brattleboro Area Schools. Mikaela is also another host of Indigo Radio and co-hosts In The Company of Black Women. 

Vicky Senni is the director of an early childhood center and has been working on campaigns to support early childhood education for the last 8 years. Before that she taught science and nutrition through cooking and farming with children of all ages. 

Lauren Perlstein is currently a kindergarten teacher in Springfield, VT and previously worked as a school librarian for a Pre-K-8 public school.  She is a Spark alumni and one of the hosts on Indigo Radio. 

Black Lives Matter

Get Teacher PD credits to learn about creating social justice in your classroom and beyond. Spark runs Teacher Professional Development seminars online for teachers in districts across the country. Participants join a network of teachers and school leaders committed to creating just learning environments for all students.

Fall semester starts Sept 11

There’s no better time to start your path to a becoming a teacher. Although Covid has required that Spark shift the schedule of coursework and classroom work, the Spark program is up and running for Fall 2020. Apply now to be ready to teach when schools are back in full swing in 2021.