Lauren McNeil who joined PEDC in 2022 and is a Kindergarten Teacher in the Easton Area School District.
PEDC’s mission is to increase the diversity of the educator workforce & create a culturally relevant and sustaining education system here in PA. How do you push this work forward in your personal and/or professional capacity?
Have you worked on any projects or initiatives that positively impact the recruiting, mentoring, retaining, or promoting the well-being of BIPOC teachers? If so, how?
As part of my membership to the Easton Area School District’s Diversity Alliance’s Climate and Culture Committee, I attend monthly meetings to work towards a more equitable climate and culture for staff and students in our district. Our committee furthers this work by researching and facilitating monthly equity chats for the Easton Area School District with employees and stakeholders who volunteer to take part.
I also work on a community initiative with Edward “Nano” Gomez called Always Better Everyday. Edward is a Hispanic bilingual graphic designer and owner of two stores in the city of Easton. Always Better Everyday is a reminder that you can be better than you were the day before. We formed the initiative to help decrease the effects of shame, remind everyone that we all make mistakes, and to keep trying. We created graphic design lessons that include the Always Better Everyday positive mindset message that Edward offers to implement in Easton Area School District classrooms. The students benefit significantly from his representation in our classrooms.
Why are you passionate about increasing educator diversity?
My personal and professional experiences have increased my understanding of how racial disparity in education negatively affects all students and society. As an educator, I began my career as a teacher in Jacksonville, Florida, at a predominantly Black elementary school that did not have a racial disparity between staff and students. The climate and culture in that school was drastically different than I have experienced in the schools I have taught at in Pennsylvania that do have a racial disparity between staff and students. I have witnessed that BIPOC educators bring a different cultural understanding of our world into their classrooms. As a mother, I observed the positive outcomes my children acquired when they experienced diverse representations of adults in their lives and the adverse effects that occurred when they felt they did not belong because of the lack of representation in their schools. All students need to see representation of BIPOC educators in order to begin to close the opportunity gap in education and to create a diverse world free from oppression.
Lauren McNeil working with Edward Gomez to bring the Always Better Everyday community initiative into Paxinosa Elementary School
What challenges are you experiencing in this work?
Are there any regional (or statewide) specific challenges you are facing?
What are some of your needs?
Challenges in this work include stakeholders not prioritizing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) training for all educators for various reasons. Also, educators' resistance towards DEI training in changing their pedagogy & practice.
Accountability of all educators in the nine Culturally Relevant and Sustaining Education competencies is needed.
Are you affiliated with any other organizations working towards addressing the recruiting, mentoring, retaining, or promoting the wellbeing of BIPOC teachers?
I am a co-leader of Paxinosa Elementary School’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Committee. I am a member of the Easton Area School DIstrict’s Diversity Alliance Climate and Culture committee. I am currently apart of the Educational Doctoral program in Transformational Teaching and Learning (Cohort 5) at Kutztown University.
Lauren McNeil leading a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee meeting at
Paxinosa Elementary School
Have you used any of the PEDC available resources & toolkits? If so, how?
I have used the nine Culturally Relevant and Sustaining Education Competencies (CRSE) and Rubric for a proposal to mandate DEI training for staff members in the Easton Area School District. I have used the nine CRSE competencies rubric to self-reflect, and increase my Pedagogy & Practice in my classroom. I plan to continue to use both as a tool for helping educators in my building and district transform their pedagogy & practice to create a culturally relevant and sustaining education for all students in the Easton Area School District. I have thoroughly examined the PEDC website and used the research for proposals and papers in my Doctoral Program studies at Kutztown University.
How can people connect with you and continue to follow your work?