When asked what her biggest takeaway was from her involvement with the Opportunity Coalition Network (OCN), Aisha Scott did not hesitate. “My biggest takeaway thus far is the importance of building and maintaining relationships. Relationships are vital to moving any agenda forward.”
Entering into her 14th year of teaching, the lack of relationships was initially a major struggle. While she found herself surrounded by colleagues who were welcoming in a professional sense, she did not feel the social connection and support she yearned for. Through connections she has developed with OCN, IEA and NEA, Aisha Scott has found her tribe of like-minded individuals, and they’ve been fighting for students in her district to receive an equitable education.
“Our education system promises that students will receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education that is equitable.” With this concept at the core, she decided to begin her equity journey by focusing on staff disposition including cultural competency and unconscious bias. She and several colleagues created a 5-part equity series focusing on inequities students may experience in her school district. It took a year to develop a syllabus, secure speakers, and curate resources. With support from her local association and the IEA, she was able to market her series and offer professional development hours and prizes to attendees. With the encouragement of her Assistant Superintendent, Aisha and her colleagues are now transitioning to a district wide approach, in which the workshop is offered to all new teachers. By creating awareness of concepts such as privilege and access, Aisha is striving to create awareness through interactive and anonymous activities to allow the participants to be challenged without feeling attacked. A huge measure of her success is in the feedback she has received from participants who have consistently asked for additional training.
In her quest for equity, Aisha doesn’t just train teachers, she seeks ways to provide her Black and brown students with experiences they might not otherwise have had. “We have to expose our children to what the world has to offer. We must prepare them for our interconnected world, so they can successfully collaborate with people who look different than them.” Being a Global Learning Fellow through the NEA Foundation allowed Aisha to bring this kind of opportunity to the students in her classroom. Last year, she and her students learned about global citizenship and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Her students participated in iEARN, a global virtual exchange program that connected them with students from Moldova, Taiwan and Ukraine. iEARN-USA was so impressed with her students’ work that they invited two of them to represent the United States and present at the iEARN Virtual Project Exhibition. Aisha’s class was the only class from the United States chosen to participate.
In addition to this life changing experience as part of her fellowship, Aisha also traveled to South Africa to investigate the historical and cultural context of the country and learn about its education system through meetings with policymakers, businesses, and nonprofit leaders. She was able to visit schools to meet teachers, students, and administrators. This experience confirmed to Aisha how deeply laws and policies impact individuals, communities, and nations and how unjust laws and policies can be implemented to oppress people. In her classroom, her school and her district, Aisha is boldly tackling these issues, and creating allies in the process.