Every year, Facing History and Ourselves is honored to create a public platform to highlight, uplift and celebrate the lives, actions, and voices of incredible Upstanders at the schools that make up our Los Angeles Partner School Network (LAPSN). Having just published the series "A Network of Innovation," featuring thoughtful reflections from LAPSN educators on the meaning and practice of school community, student-centered classrooms, and units that thread together social-emotional learning, civic engagement and identity, this series of Upstander posts this week is the perfect complement. These are Educator Upstanders who look out for and center their students, give them the space and opportunities to explore the meaning of Upstanding, expand their Universe of Obligation and Choose to Participate.
Today's post features educators who have made an impression upon their colleagues. Yesterday's post honored student groups and the day before highlighted individual students and Thursday's final post will honor individual educators. We hope you'll read them all, follow the social media campaign at @FacingHistoryLA on Twitter and @FacingHistory on Instagram, and consider bringing these posts into your classroom or advisory (here are some teaching activities).
As a start, please enjoy a special message and short poem by Grammy-nominated spoken word artist Sekou Andrews. We see Upstanding as a broad spectrum of action: from small acts of kindness to heroic feats in the face of injustice, from individual steps taken to support peers to collective movements for social change. Sekou's poem provides dynamic description and inspiring interpretation to the critical role of Upstanders.
2022 Upstanders: Student Groups
Cleveland Humanities Magnet High School
Donna Hill is the quintessential Upstander! She retired in 2012, only to return each and every year since then to train teachers, create curriculum, cover classes, fulfill long-term substitute teaching positions, and most importantly, provide emotional support for students and staff alike. As one of the founders of the Humanities Magnet program, she has dedicated the last forty years of her life to the school community. Donna continues to be an integral voice and influence in developing curriculum that seeks to empower students to be change agents in society. She goes above and beyond to ensure that students and teachers continue to thrive in spite of challenges. Donna never hesitates to step in, knowing that teachers and students continue to need support and she graciously gives her time. Though Donna retired ten years ago, students recognize her to be a vital part of the program, as does the entire Cleveland community. She is the Upstander of Upstanders!
New Los Angeles Middle School
Ms. Naranjo has worked tirelessly to create a more inclusive school for the LGBTQ+ community at New LA. From organizing Pride week to Pronoun day, supporting students in weekly Queer Club meetings (the first ever) as well as being a teacher leader in the Upstanders Club, Ms. Naranjo cares deeply about the student experience. She works diligently to provide support and services to the families of students with disabilities and always makes sure that parents have the resources and translation that they need. Ms. Naranjo has built special relationships with students that may not have had a trusting adult on campus before.
Los Angeles School of Global Studies
Nicole is the kind of teacher often seen in movies: one who sought out teaching for the love of supporting students. For example, she reached out to her personal network to find housing and financial support for a student who was kicked out of their home and would have otherwise been placed in the foster program. She has bought dorm room supplies for a first-year UC Berkeley student with her own money. She has edited countless college essays and recommendation letters for students who then go on to Harvard, UCLA and USC. She has connected numerous students with low-cost housing and immigration legal support. Furthermore, she has a sixth sense for when a student is struggling and will often be the first to pull this student aside to check in about their emotional well being. Students find great comfort in her encouraging words and will often come back to campus, years after graduating, just to thank her for the advice she gave them in 10th grade. She insists on developing a learning environment where students can feel safe, listened to, heard, and respected. She achieves this with ease. Students are always telling her, “Your class was my favorite!” or “I learned so much from you!” or “You really pushed me to be a better student!”
Beyond being a supportive, empathetic, and passionate teacher, Nicole is also an incredible coworker. During our Professional Development meetings, she takes command in pushing forward events and practices that would better serve our school and praises staff members for their achievements. After years of nominating others for the Upstander Celebration with Facing History, she deserves to finally be recognized for her Upstanding.
Russell Westbrook Why Not? Middle School
As the assistant principal, Ms.Vance oversees student discipline, culture, and attendance. In just her first year with the school, she has done an amazing job of building relationships with students, parents, and teachers in the service of supporting student achievement. She takes the time to get to know people - their likes, dislikes, motivators, fears - and does her best to make people feel special. Hungry? She's already saved you a sandwich. Headache? There's peppermint oil on your desk. Want to vent? Complain to your heart's content. In her classroom and in her office, students and teachers have left her notes expressing their appreciation. She's truly special.
New Los Angeles Middle School
Terrence created a Student Upstanders club during the pandemic and that he faithfully and dutifully brought into in-person reality upon returning to campus. The club meets twice a month on Fridays to discuss ways to ensure the school is being inclusive of all races, genders and abilities. Terrence has created a space where students feel safe, heard and appreciated. He has provided our school with an opportunity for students to use their voices and discuss big topics. He has created the potential for real change.
About the Los Angeles Partnership Schools Network
Facing History's mission is to promote young people's development to become humane, informed and engaged citizens. This work takes its deepest form at schools in the Partnership Schools Network, where students take several Facing History courses during their middle or high school years. As part of this network, schools embrace Facing History's core themes as foundational to their schools' mission and weave Facing History content and teaching strategies throughout the school: in classes, advisory groups, faculty meetings, and school community activities.