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Summer Teacher Institute to Focus on Racism and Racial Bias

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The workshop at the Jefferson School The workshop at the Jefferson School
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

Educators from all over central Virginia are converging at the Jefferson School in Charlottesville to learn how to address racial bias in the classroom.

This two-year program is called "Changing the Narrative,” and it’s designed to help teachers bring racial healing into the classroom.

"We're helping build a society in which racial bias - that is so inherent to many of us - is evened out, is recognized, and addressed,” says Sue Perdue, the director of digital strategies at Virginia Humanities.

This multi-day event, which kicked off on Monday, June 18, is hosted by Virginia Humanities and the University of Virginia. It aims to address racial history in the state.

Matthew Gibson, the executive director of Virginia Humanities, says each area in the state will be treated differently.

"It's a way to personalize and customize and understand the differences that we have in these different areas of the state, and how we can address those differences and make history a part of building on to the future to transform society,” says Gibson.

Virginia Humanities is the first organization to hold this W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant-funded workshop, which aims to help teachers use different tools like podcasts or virtual reality in the classroom.

"In some ways they’re sort of scripted with SOLs [Standards of Learning] and other teaching tools and they need to be able to take some of this into their own hands,” says Perdue.

Perdue helped organize the workshop, and says that all 41 people in attendance have a shared interest in making their students feel safe and comfortable when discussing racial bias.

"We try to engage the community, we try to foster respectful spaces where people can have conversations where we can talk about books, we can talk about the ideas of the humanities and build a better future,” says Perdue.

In addition to the workshop, nonprofits in the Charlottesville area will also receive grant funds to address the topic of racial issues in innovative ways.


Press Release from Virginia Humanities:

Charlottesville, VA—Virginia Humanities at the University of Virginia will hold a summer institute for Virginia educators from across the commonwealth June 18-20 at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center in Charlottesville.

Forty-one teachers, instructional coaches, and librarians will take part in the institute, which is part of a project funded by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation called Changing the Narrative Through the Power of Story.

Changing the Narrative is a two-year project that aims to broaden and reframe narratives of Virginia’s past by engaging local communities and youth in addressing the present-day challenges of racism and bias. Participants in the teachers’ institute will receive training in educational technology including podcasts and Google Expeditions, and work together to create hands-on lesson plans.

Following a statewide call for applicants, the forty-one institute participants were selected based on their interest in incorporating themes of racial healing into their work.

“The school and district where I work, Richmond City Public Schools, has a long, complicated, and historically ripe past for the content the Institute will be working with this summer,” wrote Richmond middle school teacher Meredith Howard, in her application. Her hope is to guide her students’ “understanding of racism and help them on the road to becoming allies for their minority peers.” Jordan B. Kendall Horn, a high school teacher from Norfolk observed that her city is “still struggling with aspects of segregation and a sense of identity.” The applicants were united in their enthusiasm for what Norfolk’s Booker T. Washington High School teacher Ashley Hayes described as an “amazing opportunity... to create and nurture the bridge between the past, present, and future.”

“We understand the challenge ahead of us in doing this work. We want to create a space for honoring and respecting differences while rejecting divisiveness,” said Virginia Humanities’ executive director Matthew Gibson. “By facing hard and uncomfortable historical facts openly and by making those facts a part of the public dialogue, we lay the groundwork necessary for healing and for building an equitable society together.”

In addition to the summer institute, Changing the Narrative will provide short-term author residencies in public schools and public libraries as well as financial grants to nonprofits addressing the topic of racial healing in innovative ways in the communities of Arlington, Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, Norfolk, Richmond, and Roanoke.

To learn more about this and other aspects of the project, visit http://VirginiaHumanities.org.