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In 2016, the West Hartford Public Schools kicked off a commitment to building our capacity for cultural competence. Achieving equity and excellence requires complex work. WHPS educators remain steadfast in our efforts to ensure equitable opportunities and support for each and every student. As West Hartford continues to see steady changes in our culture and climate, the drive to clear paths requires an adjusted lens through which we see; a shift in how we think; and measures to become more culturally responsive. The Equity for Excellence Election Day Professional Development is the result of the on-going persistence of our district’s social justice advocates to identify, disrupt and dismantle systemic inequities that exist within our organization.


Workshop Information

The Election Day Equity for Excellence Professional Development workshops are facilitated by WHPS certified staff and community partners. A preview of workshop topics relevant to equity, diversity and inclusion is made available to you to consider 1 morning choice workshop and 1 afternoon choice workshop. Participants are strongly encouraged to consider one less familiar workshop, intended to stretch your thinking and learning, and one workshop that aligns with your personal/professional interest and need.

Online Registration opens on Wednesday, October 16th at midnight and closes on Wednesday, October 23rd. An overview of the day, including registration details and logistics, will be provided during individual school faculty meetings in October.

Keynote Speaker

Iran Nazario

Iran Nazario
Founder/CEO Peace Center of CT, Inc


Iran Nazario is the Founder/President/CEO, Peace Center of Connecticut, Incorporated since January 2017. He leads the center that serves as the central hub for individuals and organizations sharing the goal of a more peaceful Connecticut.  Iran has worked in the program management, gang prevention, youth outreach, engagement and support fields for 29 years. Iran is an expert in Gang Prevention and Mediation and is a Drug and Alcohol Prevention Counselor. He has trained and presented for youth service agencies, court support services, schools, and many others on a local and national level. Working in partnership with the Hartford Police Department in June of 2015, Iran was “Badged” by the department to serve as a community/law enforcement partner. In this role, Iran served as an intermediary in city- wide crisis situations under President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative. In 2017, Iran was named as “Pivotal Faces of Change” for the CREC Polaris Award and appointed as the International Peace Ambassador for the NYC Peace Museum.  Iran has worked with elementary and secondary students and educators of the West Hartford Public Schools to build community.

Special Guest

Vernon Riddick, Jr

Chief Vernon Riddick, Jr.
West Hartford Police Department


Vernon Riddick, Jr. was sworn in as West Hartford’s 10th police chief, and the first African-American chief in the department’s nearly 100-year history in late May 2018. Chief Riddick also serves on the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association. A Waterbury native, Chief Riddick started as a field training officer in Waterbury’s patrol division in December 1994, was promoted to sergeant in 2000, lieutenant in 2004, captain in 2006, deputy chief in 2009 and police chief in 2013.  Chief Riddick is a supporter of the district’s equity, diversity and inclusion work.


Moving Beyond Bias: Working to Improve from the Inside, Out

Implicit bias, that unconscious phenomenon that lies within all of us, is identified as one of the main reasons why we fail to meet the needs of our marginalized learners and why the achievement gap persists. In this workshop, we will use brain science to demystify and destigmatize bias and learn practical methods for moving beyond bias in our work with students to be more effective, gap-closing practitioners.
Target Audience: pK-12 Educators
Presenters: Ryan Cronin and Darcie Hudson

Uncovering Implicit Bias in our Schools and Classrooms

Every human being has similarity bias. That means we prefer to spend time around people who are like us. Not all together bad, right? Wrong. Played out in the workplace and the classroom, similarity bias can devolve into group think, exclusion and even discrimination. This interactive session will allow participants to explore bias: where it comes from, why we hold on to it and what we can do to identify our biases and unlearn them!
Target Audience: pK-12 Educators
Presenter: Joelle Murchison, ExecMommyGroup, LLC

The F Word: Body Size and Education

Appearance is the number one reason that people are bullied. This workshop explores how the multi-billion-dollar weight loss industry teaches us to feel badly about our own bodies and to treat others badly based on their body size. Have you thought about this subject? Do you know how you unintentionally perpetuate bias? Come to this workshop and learn about this issue from a social justice educator specializing in youth and size issues.
Target Audience: pK-12 Educators
Presenters: Nyaunu Stevens and David Figliuzzi, NCCJ

An Islamic Conversation

This workshop is designed to breakdown current stereotypes of Muslims and Islam. It will provide information on what Muslim students may face in and outside of school, based on the presenter’s personal experience and current observations within education. This workshop consists of interactive exercises that focus on recognition of where personal bias about Islam originates. It is designed to facilitate discussions in an open and relaxed environment. Questions from participants will be sought prior to the workshop.
Target Audience: pK-12 Educators
Presenter: Areej Nitowski

Disrupting Microaggressions

This workshop will be an interactive session where educators can learn about different types of microaggressions that occur in our everyday lives and in our communities. It is imperative that we interrupt them when we hear and see them. Educators will work to develop strategies to interrupt microaggressions from students and coworkers in ways that influence a more welcoming and open space for all students from all different backgrounds.
Target Audience: Secondary Educators
Presenter: Rebecca Lewis

Have You Checked Your Biases?

In the beginning of this workshop participants will be asked to take a quick implicit association test, developed by a Harvard research team. The test will measure bias as associated to race. Once the test is completed, a few volunteers will be invited to share the results with the group. We will discuss how biases work and how they can be helpful or damaging in the classroom. With a focus on African-American students, we will break down biases students deal with when entering the classroom, and how teachers can identify unchecked biases to avoid the harm that they cause.
Target Audience: pK-12 Educators
Presenter: Tracy Caldwell, Mind Evolution

Equity 101: A “Crash Course” for New Teachers

Are you a new (or nearly new) member of the WHPS team? Are you interested in “hitting the ground running” by gaining some knowledge about systemic equity, diversity and inclusion challenges, needs, strengths and efforts in our district? This session is designed to give participants both a broad-stroke perspective AND practical tips for working with students and families from diverse backgrounds. Come with questions!
Target Audience: New pK-12 WHPS Educators
Presenters: Dave Barrieau and Melissa Zych

What’s in a Name? Equity 102: Understanding Terms

This workshop focuses on the next step in equity by understanding terms, labels and meanings. Participants will engage in conversations around terms, labels and resources to use in instruction. Come prepared to advance your understanding of equity labels and names.
Target Audience: pK-12 Educators
Presenters: Meghan Zingle and Jocelyn Tamborello-Noble

Cultivating Courageous Conversations about History and Race in the Classroom

This workshop will provide educators with empathetic, inclusive, student-centered strategies for teaching “hard history” topics such as slavery and racism. Educators from the Stowe Center will share their techniques for facilitating courageous conversations about difficult historic and present-day issues, with a focus on language and cultural context. Participants will learn to build trust and encourage brave conversations in the classroom, as well as engage in interactive exercises with historic documents and present-day articles and resources.
Target Audience: pK-12 Educators
Presenter: Katie Burton, Harriet Beecher Stowe Center

Eliminating Barriers to Talk About Race in Education

This session will provide professional learning that advances racial equity as leverage points for action driven outcomes. Using the Courageous Conversations protocol, participants will engage in conversations around the history of race and racism and the exploration of personal beliefs and values that impact racial equity.
Target Audience: pK-12 Educators
Presenters: Vernee Butterfield and Eben McKnight, SERC

Poison in the Soil: Dismantling Racism in the Classroom

This session begins with an exercise that explores the roots of racism, and discuss its manifestation in the personal, interpersonal, institutional and cultural realms. We then look specifically at racism in the classroom, using examples from curriculum and micro-aggressions. There is an exercise to demonstrate the difference between intent and impact, and the importance of addressing impact. Finally, we will discuss successful instances and methods for dismantling racism in curriculum and classroom.
Target Audience: pK-12 Educators
Presenters: Kari Nicewander & Isaac Lawson, CTUCC Racial Justice Ministries

Witness Stones Project: How Can We Remember Slavery in West Hartford

In 2019, eighth graders participated in the WITNESS STONES PROJECT, honoring the humanity and contributions of ten enslaved people who helped build West Hartford. The project gives students a voice in telling the stories of West Hartford’s 62 enslaved people through art, music, poetry and prose. Their stories help us tell a more accurate history of the town. This workshop gives teachers tools to call people into the discussion about race in the past and present.
Target Audience: Secondary Educators of Social Studies, Language Arts, Music and Arts
Presenters: Tracey Wilson, Elizabeth Devine, Denise deMello, Witness Stones West Hartford

Migration Through Maps: A Cartographic Overview of American Immigration

Through the use of a series of maps, supplemented by statistics and a brief discussion of migration push and pull factors as well as public policy (past and current), this workshop provides an overview of American immigration patterns and trends from the arrival of the first inhabitants to the present day.
Target Audience: pK-12 Educators
Presenter: Francis Coan, Tunxis Community College

Native American and Indigenous History

This workshop will provide an overview on Native American history in Connecticut. Participants will learn ways to access relevant historical content and will discuss classroom lesson implementation. Participants will take away information about local educational programs, field trips and in-classroom visits that support and enhance instruction on Native American and Indigenous history. - Windsor Historical Society

The Underrepresentation of Educators of Color in WHPS: Workplace Cultural Competency

Presenters will share data on the representation of minorities in WHPS and the State of Connecticut and will offer testimonials on being an Educator of Color in West Hartford Public Schools and the importance of children seeing adult educators that look like them. Participants will also engage in dialogue facilitated by the presenters. *"Minority” is a descriptor used by the CSDE and USDOE.
Target Audience: pK-12 Educators
Presenters: Juan Melián and Kristi Burton

What Would You Do In This Situation? A Case-Study Style Workshop

This interactive case-study style workshop will engage participants in analysis and reflection on realistic and complex scenarios related to educational equity and social justice. Participants will gain an understanding of how to apply case-study analyses to productively draw upon backgrounds, experiences, personalities and perspective-taking to problem-solve challenging dilemmas. -WHPS Administration  

Where Am I Coming From? Understanding What Obscures Our Capacity to Relate With Compassion and Courage

At our best we connect, learn and contribute together. So, why can’t we show up this way all the time? What is happening when we say - “ I was highjacked”, “my buttons were pushed”, “I made assumptions”, “I was beside myself”? Let’s explore the source of these habitual reactions and find new ways to respond and bring out the best in each other. Come learn core concepts from the Self-Leadership School Model, an innovative, mindfulness and trauma informed approach to nurture wellbeing in school culture.
Target Audience: pK-12 Educators
Presenter: Joanna Curry-Sartori, Open Space Counseling and Consulting, LLC

“What Happened to You?” Trauma-Informed Theory and Intervention

Embracing a trauma-informed practice helps school personnel understand how students’ past experiences shape their present perspectives and behavioral patterns. This workshop will outline the ways in which trauma affects the brain and impacts student functioning, and practices that can be adopted to help create a traumasensitive environment. A student does not have to have a significant trauma-history to benefit from an educator’s trauma-informed interventions.
Target Audience: pK-12
Presenter: Christopher Dutton, LCSW, Bridge Family Center

Opening Hearts and Minds through Storytelling

Students open their mind and hearts and share their struggles when they trust the members of the community and feel they exist within a safe space. One of the best ways for educators to establish trust is by sharing the struggles and heartaches of their own lives with students. Vulnerability opens doors and invites others to do the same. This workshop demonstrates how personal storytelling can accomplish this and so much more in the classroom. Educators will learn how to select developmentally and classroom-appropriate stories from your scars-not your wounds.
Target Audience: K-12 Educators
Presenters: Matt Dicks and Steve Brouse

Belonging and Otherness: Exploring Interlocking Identities Through Book Discussion

Build your background knowledge about the Mexican American experience and the coming out process by reading and discussing Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, a beautifully rendered portrayal of a young Mexican American teen’s coming of age journey. Through this book, readers will have the opportunity to get to know some Spanish speaking Mexican families who don’t fit neatly into tradition-bound stereotypes, and also follow Ari as he grows and thinks and learns. Participants will commit to reading the book before 11/5, and will discuss the book in small groups on Election Day. This book is available in public libraries as a paper or audiobook, and WHPS will also provide some copies to workshop attendees.
Target Audience: PK-12 Educators interested in building their own background knowledge about Hispanic/Mexican/immigrant/ LGBT+ perspectives and willing to read the book in advance.
Presenter: Jennifer Dori

Beyond Pink and Blue: Gender in Elementary Settings

Children are coming out earlier and earlier about both sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. It is not uncommon for children to come out as transgender, non-binary or gender creative in kindergarten, first, second, third grade. How should teachers and support staff respond? This interactive workshop will explore emerging definitions, language and interventions focused specifically on grades pre-k through 5.
Target Audience: pK-5 Educators
Presenter: Robin P. McHaelen, True Colors

Your Students Can’t Hear You: Making Your Classroom Accessible to the Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing

Do you know the difference between students who are hearing, deaf and/or hard-ofhearing? Are you aware of cultural identity issues that may emerge in the classroom which could impact students’ ability to learn? By gaining a stronger comprehension of the students that you are working with, as an educator, you will be able to determine best practices and approaches in conjunction with State Standards and seamlessly integrate dual roles as advocate for the Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing.
Target Audience: pK-12 Educators
Presenter: Michael (Mick) Posner

Information Processing to Build Intellective Capacity in a Culturally Responsive Classroom

Ready to move beyond creating warm environments, being an ally, and a warm demander of students? This workshop will focus on building intellective capacity of traditionally dependent students through information processing. Techniques covered are designed to engage all students to activate higher orders of thinking and understanding through a culturally responsive teaching lens and explain their connection to a culturally diverse classroom.
Target Audience: Secondary Educators
Presenter: Mark Summa

Learning Partnerships and Classroom Culture

This workshop focuses on building the foundations to a more trusting collaborative classroom culture where both teachers and students feel welcomed, valued, and build points of connections.
Target Audience: K-12
Presenter: Lara White

Assistive Technology for Diverse Learners

Technology is a very useful tool that fits the needs of many of the students. WHPS is fortunate to have access to many technology resources. This session will define and unpack Assistive Technology and Universal Design for Learning, and addresses who it benefits. Participants will gain an understanding of technologies that address specific areas of need and learning styles. This session will also offer suggestions for practical technology resources.
Target Audience: pK-12
Presenter: Lynette Kaschke

Awareness: Understanding the Roots of Culture

This workshop will promote an examination of student behavior through a cultural lens other than your own. Participants will be challenged to see beyond their own cultural interpretation as the only possible explanations, and will explore how to widen their aperture to allow for multiple interpretations.
Target Audience: pK-12
Presenter: Anna Capobianco

Leveraging Classroom Environment to Create a Community of Learners

Creating a culturally responsive classroom community isn’t about decorating bulletin boards. Expand your repertoire of processes and structures that allow students to create a sense of community as well as intellectual and social safety for learning. Gain an understanding of rituals and routines that can raise or lower stress among the group. Explore talk and task structures built on Vygotsky’s social cultural learning theory that what we learn is sticky when we learn together and have authentic opportunities to talk to each other.
Target Audience: pK-12
Presenter: Ben Norland

Moving Toward Meaningful Inclusion in the General Education Setting

Students on the Autism Spectrum and other related disorders do not always learn with the same strategies and methods used to instruct their peers, but time in the general education setting is vital to ensure this population of students can engage in their world on a day-to-day basis. This session will offer ways to ensure that the students who share their time in general education and special education settings are accessing the academic, social, and behavioral benefits intended for that time.
Target Audience: pK-12
Presenters: Marsha Boyle and Phillip Hunt

Respect Me Because I’m Different

Participants will engage in questions of cultural identity, synthesize their responses, write a poem based on their responses, and collaborate to create a lesson which incorporates cultural identity, social justice/equity and poetry, which could be used for Human Rights Day. Participants will be invited to delve into their own layers of cultural identity, share their responses and encourage one another to inspire respect of differences in a collaborative work. The writing will be focused on inquiry and the process of creating connections between diverse learners.
Target Audience: Language Arts pK-12
Presenter: Gayle Campbell

Reflecting Identity through the Visual Arts: Making Cross-Curricular Connections

Access the untapped, artistic student voice that exists in all classrooms. That voice is unique and reflective of identity and connection to cultural inheritance through a distinct world context. This session will highlight the creative process through which students visually represents aspects of their identity and culture. Examine student artwork that is reflective of students’ voice, culture and identity, accessed through a learning environment that supports vulnerability and risk-taking. Learn about a variety of instructional strategies that can be applied across disciplines to promote creativity, and highlight connection to identity through visual expression.
Target Audience: K-12
Presenters: Elizabeth Bianco, Molly DeNello, Kathleen Kennan, Rob Loebell, Nicole Maldanado, Rachael Martinelli, Pam Murphy

Narratives of Immigrant Students

This workshop will have a panel of student immigrants who will share their stories of immigration and how schools differ here from their country. We will discuss how teachers can help them adjust and be successful. What you learn from students will help you understand what our students have been through and what you can do to support them and help them achieve their dreams.
Target Audience: pK-12
Presenter: Chalise Ross

Undocumented Students in the Classroom: A Discussion

Many of us have experiences with undocumented students in our classrooms knowingly and unknowingly. We all want to create a classroom space that feels welcoming and inclusive to these students. Come join the youth leaders from CT Students for a Dream in a politically-neutral discussion around the special needs of undocumented and immigrant youth and the resources and practices we use to support them. Bring your ideas and questions about ways to create safe spaces, provide resources, and support undocumented and immigrant youth in accessing curriculum. Together with CT Students for a Dream, we will generate best practices.
Target Audience: pK-12
Presenter: CT Students for a Dream

Clearing Paths to Bright Futures for Undocumented Immigrant Students

West Hartford’s population of undocumented students is growing rapidly. No matter your political views, they need our help to clear paths for their future. This workshop will focus on the college/career goals our students have and equip you with the information you need to help make that dream a reality.
Target Audience: Secondary Educators and School Counselors
Presenter: CT Students for a Dream

Tried and True! English Learner Instructional Supports

In this interactive workshop, participants will learn some of the district’s most effective EL instructional supports and strategies. Participants will experience learning in a different language, and how supports help to make content comprehensible for English Learners.
Target Audience: K-12
Presenter: Chalise Ross and ESOL Team Members

Books as Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors at the Secondary Level

This workshop will provide an opportunity for secondary teachers to examine the role of diverse lit in their middle and high school students’ and their own lives. Teachers will hear from a panel of students about how books have impacted their lives and will then break out to level-specific “book tastings” of books from a variety of diverse perspectives with librarians and reading specialists leading booktalks. Teachers will leave with a curated list of potential titles to enrich their curriculum and/or their class libraries.
Target Audience: Secondary English and Social Studies Teachers
Presenters: Shannon McNeice, Melissa Thom, Monica Ahern & more TBD

Beyond Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Glass Doors

Are you ready to dig deeper into the idea of providing students with text that reflects “Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Glass Doors”? This workshop will engage participants in discussion and exchange of ideas on different ways to provide students access to diverse text. Participants will explore the use of text to spark classroom discussions to build awareness and understanding of the diverse world beyond the classroom walls. Participants will also increase their familiarity with different texts/series/authors to engage and connect with the students in their class.
Target Audience: pK-5 Educators
Presenters: Liz Nascimento and Angela Giliberto

Breaking Through Cultural Barriers to Partner with All Families

Welcoming and partnering with families leverages the successes we can have with all students. Cultural factors influence those relationships. Learn about those aspects of culture which can affect relationship development and partnership as we ll as how we can build bridges across cultures to invite our families to join us in maximizing student growth and success.
Target Audience: pK-12
Presenter: Scott Ratchford

Building Collaborative Relationships with the Special Education Family

In this workshop, special education educators as WHPS parents will share insights into various perspectives of navigating the special education system. Participants will explore communication and engagement strategies with the evolving unique needs of the special needs family unit. Participants will be introduced to methods for identifying barriers to family participation and will take away positive, proactive tips for building and maintaining collaborative relationships. Realistic expectations for the shared responsibility of improved student outcome will be discussed.
Target Audience: pK-12 Educators
Presenters: Christina Foreman, Jamie Kaminski and a special education parent

The Equity and Diversity Council (EDC) gratefully acknowledges the support of WHPS administration, faculty, staff and community partners.

Executive Team 
Pk-12 Extended Leadership Team Equity and Diversity Council (EDC) School Representatives
Professional Learning and Evaluation Committee (PLEC)

Professional learning opportunities provided by:
WHPS Workshop Presenters
WHPS Community Partner Presenters

Made possible by the offices of:
Curriculum Instruction and Assessment
Facilities and Plant Services
Information Technology
Human Resources
Nutrition Services
Pupil Services

Special Thanks
Conard High School Administration, Faculty and Staff
WHPS Paraprofessionals and Teaching Assistants
West Hartford Police Department
WHPS Graphic Design Artist

In Community
The Bridge Family Center
Fern Street Food Ministry
Harriet Beecher Stowe House
The Peace Center of CT
West Hartford Adult Education
CT Parent Advocacy Center
Foundation for the West Hartford Public Schools
National Conference on Community and Justice
Planning Across the Spectrum
YWCA New Britain Sexual Assault Crisis Service

In Partnership
State Education Resource Center (SERC)
The WHPS-SERC partnership will deepen our racial equity work throughout the year. 

Election Day 2019