February 15, 2016
On February 11, the Inspired Teaching Demonstration School welcomed distinguished guests for an event hosted by Aleta Margolis on behalf of the Brown University Women’s Leadership Council. The District of Columbia’s Deputy Mayor for Education, Jennifer Niles, gave a keynote presentation, followed by a response panel with five Brown University alumnae representing various roles in the education field.
Aleta Margolis and Head of School Deborah Dantzler-Williams opened the event. Together, they shared the founding purpose of the Inspired Teaching Demonstration School: to create a learning community centered around the 4 I’s: Intellect, Inquiry, Imagination, and Integrity®. Inspired Teaching believes every child deserves this kind of school experience, and the Demonstration School puts this model into practice in every classroom.
In her keynote, Deputy Mayor Niles examined the role of educators and reformers in improving the lives of children. She challenged the audience to consider how history informs the nature of school and our assumptions about it. She galvanized her fellow alumnae to confront the bias within that history, so as to more equitably serve students across entrenched racial, socioeconomic, and geographic divides.
Each of the panelists then touched upon how her own work addresses the challenges of building a better school experience for all children. Marissa Steinberger described the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s scholarship program for deserving students in underserved areas. Jane de Winter talked about the importance of engaging parents in advocacy. Beth Fighera identified trends she has seen over years of teaching students and coaching teachers, including a need for training in inquiry-based methods along with standards-aligned curricula. Dr. Sonja Santelises focused on the civil rights advocacy work of the Education Trust, where she is Vice President of K-12 Policy and Practice, and called on reformers to engage families in their vision for better schools. Jennifer Lowndes provided a counter-narrative to those hesitant about increasing diversity in schools, lauding the successes of Rock Creek Forest Elementary School in Montgomery County.
Moderated by Aleta Margolis, the ensuing conversation among the Deputy Mayor, panelists, and the audience explored what kind of school experience every student deserves. The event concluded with panelist and audience reflections on what it means to be an educational changemaker and how to keep oneself motivated – by hope for a better world and dissatisfaction at the status quo – in the movement to transform education for all children.