Education Minnesota members who are focusing on racial equity and social justice work in their locals and districts shared their stories at a virtual live event on June 9, streamed and saved on Education Minnesota’s Facebook video page.
Sabrina Tapia of Prior Lake-Savage, Jenifer Stehr of Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan and Caroline Long of Minneapolis all shared their stories about their work, how it sparked their local unions into action and the triumphs and challenges they faced.
Tapia shared that her local union, the Prior Lake-Savage Education Association, has created a Coalition for Teachers of Color, is creating a cohort to support Tier One teachers who often are teachers of color move to full licensure, and engaging parents and students.
“One of the ways that our local has supported us is just working with the community. Partnering with parents is one of the most important things that we’ve done because a lot of times, just like BIPOC educators have been marginalized, our BIPOC parents have been marginalized,” said Tapia. “We are having parent affinity groups, monthly meetings where parents can come and speak to how would you like your child represented in school or just the creation of joy.”
The Prior Lake-Savage Coalition for Teachers of Color just received an Education Minnesota Foundation grant, as well as a National Education Association Safe and Just Schools grant, to continue and expand its work into the next school year.
In Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan, Stehr said a union social justice committee actually started with a majority of white members wanting to do something after the murder of George Floyd.
“We had so many members reaching out to our local president saying, ’How can we help? How can we get involved?,’” she said. “We started the social justice committee and we found something that members really had a passion for and that more members than we even thought of joined. And so we kind of collectively came together with so many people that had so many experiences and wanted to help support our students of color and our teachers of color. And it just took off.”
Stehr said the committee plans on doing more member engagement this year, as well as professional development.
For Long, racial equity work has always been a core of her personal and professional life
“I have always kind of had that fire, being an educator of color,” she said. “I have felt undermined and demeaned, not respected in my own profession. It seemed like George Floyd seemed to be the catalyst where people are like, ‘Oh, now we’re going to believe what you’re saying.’ And so then a lot of things just kind of have taken off from there.”
In Minneapolis, the union’s bargaining team, which Long is a part of, is now reviewing language and polices in their contract that could better support equity and recruitment and retention of educators of color.