NAFC Hosts Allies In Education Award & Panel Night | The Newtown Bee

Newtown Allies for Change recently held its 3rd Annual Allies in Education Award and Panel Night.

Newtown Allies for Change (NAFC) is a local grassroots organization. Its simple mission is to center Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) in Newtown.

The goal of NAFC’s award each year is to support educators who are doing the work to uphold the district’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) resolution. Although the event was closed to the public, the room was filled with many in attendance for the event, including educators from Newtown schools and other surrounding communities, Newtown Board of Education members, and NAFC members.

Participants enjoyed food, some of which was graciously donated by Uncle Matt’s Bakery and Chef Micah Foote.

NAFC asked educators, administrators, and community members to nominate educators who have gone above and beyond in making their learning spaces more inclusive. Nominees were then asked to submit their biographies, highlighting their work in DEI.

The presentation on May 30 opened by announcing all of the nominees and gifting them with books to help further their journeys in becoming anti-racist. Attendees also heard from previous years’ winners about how they used the gifts donated in the past.

It was exciting to hear how local educators have used gifts from businesses to help diversify their libraries as well as help offset costs for their own education. As noted that evening, when educators grow in their own knowledge, they are able to pass it along to their students.

This year’s winners were Ariana Leggio, a second grade teacher at Middle Gate Elementary; and Erika Carlson, the Library Media Specialist at Hawley Elementary School.

In addition to the two educators, NAFC awarded Students Advocating for Diversity and Equity (SADE) club at Newtown High School and challenged them to strive in their work of allyship in the upcoming school year.

Prior to the event, educators also were given the opportunity to submit questions to the panel. One question was discussed in small groups: “How can we incorporate DEI into every single subject?” Each table was assigned a subject and discussed how inclusion could be incorporated in that particular area of study.

The ideas ranged from including non-Eurocentric artists and composers for music and art classes to discussing how science and math were improved by efforts and work from BIPOC. They also discussed how educators thought the school district was performing when it came to the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) resolution, which was enacted in 2020.

While some thought there was some growth, many educators in attendance agreed there needs to be a better effort by the school district to incorporate more professional development training for all employees.

In addition to healthy discussions about allyship and anti-racist efforts in the school, the event was interspersed with fun moments of prizes donated by local Newtown businesses, including Amazon gift cards donated by a private Newtown resident, free haircuts and stylings donated by Smoke and Mirrors hair salon, and gift cards from Cosmic Cafe and Perfusion.

Alongside casual conversation celebrating the end of another school year and excitedly sharing hopes for what is to come, was the rare opportunity to talk openly and honestly about race. Attendees appreciated the opportunity to share with one another the difficulties and frustrations that come with teaching. Overall, the afternoon was a time to celebrate Newtown educators and demonstrate to them that their efforts have not gone unnoticed.

NAFC congratulates the winners and looks forward to expanding this award ceremony in years to come.

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