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Educator Conferences

Register for our Educator Conference on January 24 - "Identity Safety: Strategies to Honor Identity and Reduce Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying! 
We have a great line-up of speakers, including Becki Cohn-Vargas, author of Identity Safe Classrooms, David Schwartz from Facing History and Ourselves, and Christa Tinari of the National Liberty Museum
, and Ana Maria Mistral of  NJTESOL/NJBE.   See workshop descriptions below.

More information about our presenters:

Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas is the Director of Not In Our School (NIOS). She has spoken on the subject of how to combat bullying at conferences, schools, and universities across the United States. Becki's new book,“Identity Safe Classrooms: Places to Belong and Learn,” co-authored with Dr. Dorothy Steele was published by Corwin Press. Prior to working at The WorkingGroup, she spent over 35 years in public education in California. She was a preschool director in Healdsburg, teacher and  principal in the Oakland Unified School District, Elementary Curriculum Director for the Palo Alto Unified School District and Superintendent of the Luther Burbank School District. While serving in Palo Alto in 2003, Becki initiated Not In Our School: Palo Alto, one of the first NIOS initiatives featured on KQED public television. Since that time, this yearly K-12 district-wide effort to combat bullying, harassment, homophobia, and racism has served as a model for the national NIOS program. Currently, as the NIOS Director she develops standards-based bullying prevention curriculum and has worked with over 150 NIOS efforts at schools and colleges across the United States. She has been hosted at the White House twice where she briefed President Obama’s education staff. Her efforts have included partnerships with the PTA, NEA, Facing History, the United Sikhs, and most recently the Furious Five legendary rap group who is doing a pro bono public service announcement for NIOS.

Dr. Ana Maria Mistral received a BA from NJCU, an MA. from Kean University, a MA in Spanish Language and Culture from Salamanca University, and a PhD from Fordham University with specialization in language, literacy and learning. Dr. Mistral holds New Jersey certifications as elementary and reading teacher, ESL and bilingual teacher, supervisor and principal.  Dr. Mistral worked at the Jersey City Public Schools for 27 years as teacher, bilingual teacher, and supervisor.  In 2004, she was appointed a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Reading in the Middle Grades by the Commissioner of Education. She was also invited by the governor to serve in the Latino Agenda Committee of the state of New Jersey.  Dr. Mistral worked for Kean University as Assistant professor and Clinical Supervisor, teaching graduate/ undergraduate courses in bilingual education and supervising student teachers.  She presented in various professional meetings at state, national, and international level on the areas of literacy, bi-literacy, teaching strategies for diverse students, culture, and language acquisition.    In 1996, she was elected to the Executive Board of NJTESOL/NJBE where she has served since then, becoming president of the organization. In May 2007, Dr. Mistral received the Fred Carrigg Leadership Award from NJTESOL/NJBE in recognition of her lifetime commitment to the education of ELLs and her advocacy efforts on behalf of immigrants.   In September 2012, Dr. Mistral joined the Regional Achievement Center No. 3 as English Language Learners and English Language Arts Specialist.

David Schwartz holds a BA Political Science from the University of Vermont, an MA in Education from New York University, and an MA in Political Science from Rutgers University.  He spent 15 years as a High School Teacher of Social Studies in New Jersey, and 15 years as a Supervisor of Social Studies.  David has taught the Diversity Council courses "Teaching the Holocaust" and "Teaching Prejudice Reduction" for over ten years.  For the past four and a half years he has been a Program Associate with Facing History and Ourselves.

Christa Tinari MA, is a Safe Schools Specialist and Manager of Professional Development at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia. The museum’s mission is to preserve freedom and democracy by fostering good character and understanding for all people through education. The museum’s offerings include the innovative Young Heroes Outreach Program which raises awareness of social justice issues and teaches students skills for leadership and civic engagement. Ms. Tinari  has worked closely with thousands of educators and youth-serving professionals at public, Catholic, and charter schools throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania. As a former Student Assistance Counselor and district-wide Bullying Prevention Specialist, she has served the diverse needs of students and their families. Ms. Tinari is Adjunct Instructor of Education at Temple University and popular conference presenter. She is creator of: The Peaceful Schools Institute™ - a 3-day teacher training program; the School Climate Thermometer –a climate assessment tool for middle schools; and the Feel & Deal® Activity Deck- an emotional intelligence tool for elementary school students. Ms. Tinari supports educational practices that establish safe, engaging, respectful, and caring spaces in which students can develop their academic, social, and emotional skills.

Here are some descriptions of the exciting workshops we are offering:

Keynote address from Becki Cohn-Vargas:

It is 2014, the year No Child Behind proposed to have all students at grade level. Yet, the under-achievement of students of color persists. Too many remedies focus on boosting test scores and controlling behavior. Identity safe teaching promotes a sense in students that their social identity is an asset rather than a barrier to success, whatever their background. Research on identity safety has shown that in classrooms where the teacher inspires, guides, encourages, and challenges students, and sees their diversity as a resource, they perform at higher levels and like school and feel more identity safe.  Today we will explore identity safety- as an idea and in classroom  practice.

Becki Cohn-Vargas' workshop: Identity Safe Classrooms: places to belong and learn

The workshop highlights four areas of focus that emerged from research: 1. Classroom relationships (positive) between teacher and student and among students, 2. child-centered teaching with a  thinking curriculum (Common Core-focused) and, 3. caring classroom environments and management systems that promote emotional and physical comfort; and 4. cultivating diversity as a resource together with challenging curriculum and high expectations. Through videos and small group activities and discussion, participants will explore how to create identity safety in elementary classrooms.

Ana Maria Mistral's workshop:  Supporting Racial, Ethnic, and Cultural Identities in the Classroom

This interactive workshop will explore the characteristics of the diverse student population that New Jersey schools serve. Culturally and linguistically responsive teaching and learning environments will be considered assets that support achievement rather than impediments to rigor in the classroom.    Informed by the experiences of participating educators and some anecdotal information gathered by various Kean graduate students, the participants will discuss instructional strategies that support student learning and increase their motivation. These practices will be modeled and there will be a distribution of handouts to help implement them.

Christa Tinari's workshop: “I Dislike That Person, Therefore I Need to Know Him Better”: Relationship-Building to Address Bias

This quote, attributed to Abraham Lincoln, provides an interesting discussion starter for exploring our reaction to bias. We have a biological tendency to rely on our own perspective and to make quick judgments of others. While useful in some situations, this tendency can lead us to rely on wrong assumptions, in the absence of more “rich” information about our colleagues or students. In the classroom, diversity and identity issues can lead to conflict or community. The answer to this dilemma is relationship-building!  We can help students develop respectful relationships with one another that are based on genuine understanding, rather than on erroneous assumptions and learned biases. This workshop will provide diversity and perspective-taking activities you can use to foster community among students and decrease identity bullying.

David Schwartz's workshop:  Teaching Identity Safety/A Case Study Approach

This session will explore the uses of Facing History and Ourselves online website portal, Bullying:  A Case Study in Ostracism.  We will focus on the role of young people and adults in preventing and responding to incidents of bullying and ostracism and the choices young people and adults can make to create and sustain schools that are safe for everyone.  Teachers attending will walk away with lesson resources and teaching strategies that are ready for classroom implementation. (most appropriate for grade 6-12 teachers)

The Diversity Council sponsors bi-annual teacher conferences featuring national authorities on current educational issues.  These all-day conferences include interactive workshops which follow the keynote address.  Previous conference speakers and topics  have included:

Dr. Beverly Tatum, "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?"
Dr. Ronald Takaki, "Strangers From A Different Shore"
Dr. Gloria Ladsen-Billings, "Practical Strategies for Culturally Relevant Teaching"
Dr. Ronald Ferguson, "Narrowing the Achievement Gap"
Dr. David Sadker, "Gender Bias in the Classroom"
Dr. Sonia Nieto, "On Diversity"
Stephen Wessler, "Strategies for Preventing Bias and Harassment"
GLSEN's Kevin Jennings, " Making Your School Safe: A Teacher Workshop on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues "
Dr. Socorro Herrera, "Making the Grade: Latinos, Cultural Considerations and Academic Success”

 Our 2012 Educator Conference extended our February general assembly meeting and addressed a timely issue for NJ schools: anti-bullying education and legislation. 

First, we welcomed a performance of “Shadows”, a multi-media music and theatrical anti-bullying program by students from Franklin Township High School. In its remarkable collaborative effort,  “Shadows” is a drama developed by students, with teacher guidance, with a very special purpose.  The mission of “Shadows” is to teach middle and high school aged students about the effects of bullying and to build awareness of the role each one plays in preventing it.  The project was initiated by Jennifer Little, Franklin High School Theater Arts teacher and Michael Pinnix, Franklin High School Video Production teacher.  Students developed the program from inception to finish. 

"Shadows” has been awarded the prestigious 2011 Golden Bell Leadership Award from the Mental Health Association of New Jersey.    Students participated in a talk back with our educators after the performance. 

Check out the promotion video for this incredible production: Shadows and read more about Shadows here.

Our afternoon workshop included a choice of two presentations:

Bullying & Bias: Complying with the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Effectively with

Paula C. Rodríguez Rust, PhD of Spectrum Diversity.

New legislation in New Jersey has raised awareness of bullying as an issue and challenged schools to address bullying pro-actively.  This session provides practical information and strategies to help school personnel comply with the law and enhance the safety of students. Topics include evidence-based strategies for addressing different types of bullying, the role of school climate, bystander empowerment, common misconceptions and mistakes, issues raised by new legislation such as the handling of confidential information and role conflict for personnel who must combine reporting and investigatory obligations with a need to maintain student trust.


Anti-Bullying Workshop with Jennifer Little and Michael Pinnix, Franklin Township High School

  What can a kid do about bullying? What can a teacher do? At Franklin High School the students used the arts to create change! They created “Shadows,” a drama developed with a very special purpose as a tool to create dialogue and awareness of bullying in our community. “Shadows” was a recipient of the prestigious 2011 Golden Bell Leadership Award from the Mental Health Association in New Jersey. The critically acclaimed program continues to grow this year as students perform and build on last year’s work by creating a Year of Respect in the district. In addition, it has received recognition from the Governor of New Jersey, the NJ Dept. of Education and the Mayor of Somerset.  Today’s workshop will introduce teachers to various hands-on techniques on creating dialogue, applied theatre activities to do with students, using arts and media to help any school create and implement their own grassroots, student-initiated anti-bullying program.