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head: DIVERSITY PROJECT













Diversity Project

Kelsey Halverson

Doane College
























Author Note

This paper was written for EDU602: Critical Issues, taught by Dr. Marilyn Johnson-Farr.

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DIVERSITY AT KOOSER ELEMENTARY, LINCOLN, NEBRASKA


I work at Kooser Elementary School as an English Language Learners teacher.
Kooser is beginning its fifth school year with a quickly growing population. In 2012-2013,
Kooser had 664 students with projections closer to 762 this fall. Twenty-four percent of
our students are Minority Students. We serve 3% of our students in the gifted program and
8% of our students are in Special Education. Overall, 27% of our students are eligible for
free/reduced lunch prices and we have a 10% mobility rate.
At Kooser we are lucky to say that our average class size is 23 students per class. We
work with 71 total staff members and have many special programs to serve our students:
ExCite preschool, ELL, Reading Recovery, RtI, TeamMates Mentoring as well as
instrumental and vocal music programs for our students.
The neighborhoods and community surrounding Kooser is rapidly developing. It is
expected by years six or seven, Kooser will be at full capacity of 792. We are among
cornfields and construction, proof that Lincoln continues to grow in all directions.
Additional services to our families include the after school YMCA program that is
held at Kooser in the evening, and the Fallbrook Town Center and YMCA just two miles to
the East of our school. This affluent neighborhood may give the picture that we are a very
white privileged school with high-class families, however Kooser has very wide boundaries
and includes many Government-Assisted apartments and housing. Kooser has a wide-
range of families in regard to Socioeconomic Status. Within five miles, families in need can
be served at Peoples Health Center, or Matt Talbot Kitchen.

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ARTICLES ABOUT POVERTY AND SOCIOECONOMICS


Addressing Poverty in Schools by Joe Nocera
This article is about psychiatrist Dr. Pamela Cantor and her Turnaround Program to
help schools that have students living in poverty. Dr. Cantor believes that we must address
poverty head on instead of avoiding the issue. In the Turnaround Program, a team of three
members from the Turnaround Program pairs with a school for three to five years. They
work with the principal, social worker and teachers to address the needs students have and
how to deal with students living in poverty. Dr. Cantor recognized that students in poverty
and children that have experienced trauma show the same characteristics: sadness,
distracted, aggressive behavior, and lack of focus. The Turnaround Program, while still
small, has continued to grow and schools have seen improvement in their classroom
atmospheres and classrooms.
I also believe that sometimes you have to address issues of poverty directly. If we
dance around the issue I dont feel like were getting anything accomplished at school. I
have personally addressed needs of clothing and food with individual students in previous
years. Usually the students seem embarrassed at first, but soon seem glad that someone
finally addressed their worn out shoes, their pants that are two sizes too small, or their coat
that is so worn the stuffing is coming out.
No Child Left Behind and parental involvement by Sean Cavanaugh
This article is about the funds available to schools through Title 1 No Child Left
Behind money that should be used for family involvement in schools. Some schools do not
use this money wisely and only do small amounts of family involvement, or use it to buy
refreshments for family fun night. In the article they state that parent involvement increase

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academic success, better attendance, and higher graduation rates. Multiple organizations
are pushing to have these funds used to benefit the students.

Again, I am impressed with the programs Huntington and LPS Title 1 schools have in

place to increase family involvement. One of my biggest challenges as an ELL teacher is to


get families involved at school. I would love to be able to have parents comfortable at
school functions and the necessary interpretation available, but this is not always the
reality. I have typically found that my students that do the best in ELL and acquire English
the quickest are ones that have huge family support at home.
Teachers Serve as First Responders to Poverty by Associated Press

This article described the great lengths teachers in Philadelphia and all over the

country go to in order to serve their students in need. Teachers in Philadelphia have done
countless things to address poverty in their schools. For example, some teachers wash
clothes for students, buy prom attire, and provide toiletries and eyeglasses for their
students, in addition to other acts of philanthropy. The article addressed that the
generosity of teachers across the world is often missing from the dialogue about education
today.

While reading this article, I almost found myself yelling out, Amen! because

teachers do so much for their students and sometimes all that we hear about is the test
scores we didnt meet. This article hit close to home; Ive provided Christmas gifts, clothes,
supplies, daily snacks, and food to my students for their families. While I havent had the
extremities that teachers in Philadelphia have, my students have always left a mark on my
heart and I care for my students and their families. Teachers absolutely are the first
responders to the poverty in the community. We pour our heart and souls into the

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profession and everyones child is our own. I cant name a single teacher that hasnt
reached into their own pocket to help their classroom or a student in their teaching career.

DIVERSITY AT HUNTINGTON ELEMENTARY, LINCOLN, NEBRASKA
I interviewed Sarah Swim, a former resource teacher at Huntington Elementary in
Lincoln, Nebraska. Currently, Huntington serves 474 students in grades K-5. They have
42% Minority Students and 84% of their students receive Free or Reduced Lunch. Ms.
Swim mentioned that Huntington has many programs for students and families including
an afterschool Community Learning Center, the Food Bank Backpack Program for food on
the weekends, and many after school clubs for students.
I asked Ms. Swim what programs she felt benefited students most. She said that
hunger was a big issue in her Kindergarten through First Grade resource class and that she
felt students really looked forward to the backpack of food going home on the weekends.
Ms. Swim mentioned that she and other staff members often served students snacks and
food out of their own funds in order to keep the focus on learning in the classroom.
Another special program Ms. Swim mentioned was Huntington Headquarters.
Huntington Headquarters took place during the Holidays. Surrounding businesses and
donors in the community supplied many gifts to the school. Huntington then gave each
family that qualified for free or reduced lunch $100 fake dollars to spend at the store, so
that families could have gifts for their children during the holiday season. Staff members
volunteered to do gift-wrapping so everything was ready to go home with the parents. Ms.
Swim said that this created spirit among the staff and families and it was great to see the
happiness of the children and parents when they were able to have gifts.

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Ms. Swim said that her most difficult challenges in her resource room were
academic challenges due to no prior school experiences for her students and behaviors
issues that it created. Often students were very behind academically, and didnt always
have the support at home to continuing working towards growth. She felt the behaviors
stemmed from being behind in their academics as well as other learning and mental issues.
Ms. Swim mentioned that the best part of working at Huntington was seeing how a
passionate community of teachers came together to serve the needs of all students in a very
diverse population.
COMPARE AND CONTRAST: KOOSER AND HUNTINGTON ELEMENTARIES

While Kooser may be a bigger school than Huntington, they are very different in

terms of socioeconomic make up and diversity. Kooser does not have many programs in
place while Huntington has several programs in place to serve their families in need. By
looking at the school profile provided by the Lincoln Public Schools District, Huntington
also has a Foster Grandparents program, Family Zoo night, YMCA Sports, Family nights,
Second Step Family Program and New to You program. I think this says a lot about
Huntington and their mission: Our mission at Huntington Elementary School is to
education and empower students to have the desire and skills to become respectful and
responsible contributing members of their community. I think the staff at Huntington puts
a lot of effort and resources together to create and build relationships in their school and
community.

Kooser also builds community and relationships with our families and community,

however I find that many parents are actively involved and are eager to help. I dont think

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that this means Huntington or Kooser is a better school than the other; they both respond
to their diversities in the way that is necessary and best fit for their community.

Ive learned that it is most important for schools to address the diversities that exist

in their school and do their best to build relationships-- whether there are special
programs or not. I believe that teachers in both schools give their time, talent, and treasure
to meet the needs of their students.
ACTION PLAN AND GOALS
1. I believe that diversities within school play a huge part in the learning of students. I
think schools need to be aware of the diversity that exists and work to overcome
any hurdles that may be present. I know that socioeconomics play a huge role in
student life and their academics. Putting programs in place to help students shows
commitment to their intellectual, social, and mental well-being. Parent support
plays a huge impact on students. Students want to be loved, nurtured, and inspired.
In my classes, I often deal with low socioeconomics and poverty. I know that this
impacts my students and now I have more experience of how Huntington has built
relationships and supported their students.
2. In my ELL classroom, I come from an entirely different background from my
students. It is imperative that I place all stereotypes, prejudgments, and uncovered
biases aside in order to teach my students. I truly believe in my students; Ive
watched amazing gains in their education and social abilities and I am excited for
their futures. On a daily basis, I allow for students to share their culture, their
stories, language and beliefs. All students benefit from better understanding the
world around them. I realize now that students that live in poverty and low

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socioeconomic status feel higher stress than other students. I can provide a
nurturing, warm, and caring environment in order to reduce stress and to help them
succeed in the classroom.
3. My classroom consists of many languages, backgrounds, and cultures. I take time to
share their experiences and traditions so we all understand each other better. We
take the time to communicate with each other about how important our family
traditions are. Within the school of Kooser, I am constantly an advocate for my
students to their teachers and administration about their beliefs and traditions. For
example, many students at Kooser cannot eat pork because of religious and cultural
beliefs and I do stand behind my students if any situations occur in the lunchroom
or in classroom treats. As a staff, we aim to welcome all cultures with open arms and
we celebrate our differences. We are all Kooser Kodiaks! I also need to be aware of
the socioeconomics of my students so that I can help them better relate to the
students of Kooser that have a high socioeconomic status. For example, some of my
students families do not have cars. Some of their peers at Kooser may think this is
crazy to not have a car, so I can address the issue and find the positives in
carpooling, riding a bike to school, and walking to get the family groceries. Kooser
does a great job of helping the poor in the community by having many drives
throughout the year. However, I think it would be nice to do more for our low-
income families at our own school during the holidays. Even though our percentages
of free and reduced lunch families are less than a Title 1 school, its still important to
not ignore this issue and how it affects those students.

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4. I better understand how schools meet the needs of students of poverty. I commend
Huntington and other schools that are able to provide special programs,
relationships, and a caring environment for their students. I know that living in
poverty adds stress to these students lives, which may result in frustration and
anger. Schools have to address poverty; it cannot be ignored, no matter how small
of a population that exists at the school. It is most important that administration
and staff comes together to address the needs of the families to ensure student
success.

REFERENCES
Associated Press. "Teachers serve as first responders to poverty." Erie Times 4 June 2013:
n. pag. goerie.com. Web. 6 June 2013.
Cavanaugh, Sean. "No Child Left Behind and parental engagement." theNotebook
[Philadelphia] 13 Apr. 2012: n. pag. TheNotebook. Web. 6 June 2013.
"New Profit Inc. :: Turnaround for Children." New Profit Inc.. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 June 2013.
<http://newprofit.com/cgi-bin/iowa/do/invest/33.html?page=leadership>.
Nocera, Joe. "Addressing Poverty in Schools." The New York Times 28 July 2012: A23. Print.