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Category: Unity and Diversity
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By Kellianne Holland
Early Childhood Education Major, College of Education

A classroom is a diverse place where students of different ages, genders, cultures, socio-economic standings and religions all come together to learn. Therefore, it is important for teachers to promote diversity in the classroom. By doing so, students can learn the values of respect, acceptance and community. In addition, teaching tolerance in the classroom will result in students applying their knowledge and education to their homes and communities. Here are four ways to celebrate diversity in your classroom:

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By Emil Cicogna, MS
Faculty, College of Education  

For me, unity and diversity came to light one semester when I worked at Barry Goldwater High School in the Deer Valley Unified School District in Arizona.

About a month into the fall semester, I received a message that a new student was being transferred into my 10th grade language arts class. He was being removed from the other sophomore language arts class because he was failing the class and had problems with the other students. The teacher was not able to connect with him.

It turned out that he was from Jordan and had been here about three years. He was a member of the Islam religion. He felt that the students and the teachers disliked him because of his background. His name was Ali.

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By Deb Heim Martinez, MEd
Faculty and Student Teacher Supervisor, College of Education  

As we prepare for Thanksgiving, this is a perfect time to celebrate diversity. Thanksgiving is a time of coming together to share and appreciate our families, friends and gifts from God. Although inclusive practices should be part of our daily routine, taking the time to celebrate the cultures and families in our classroom comes naturally at this time of year.

In National Association for the Education of Young Children’s (NAEYC) Position Statement on Developmentally Appropriate Practice, the importance of the early childhood community is stressed because it is often the first one outside of the child’s family. It should be one where each child is respected and they are able to build positive relationships within this community. By welcoming families into the program, we bridge the child’s worlds together and assist them in finding positive social emotional connections.

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By Jenna Dowers
College of Education Student, Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education (Emphasis in English)

America is considered to be the “land of the free,” where all people are equal. People from all over the world migrate here for better opportunities, equal rights and an overall better lifestyle.

So, why are there so many controversies about the diversity in our country?

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By Cristy Bennett, MEd
Faculty Mentor and Site Supervisor, College of Education

“This is a time of newly acknowledged diversity in U.S. culture. Voices are becoming audible; faces are becoming visible; and we are realizing, some of us for the first time, how many silences there have been in the past, how many blank spaces in our history… We are discovering the range of perspectives that must be taken into account as we work to remake community, as we strive to achieve a common ground.” (Greene, 1993, p. 1-2)

This excerpt summarizes the cultural and linguistic diversity of our classrooms and the importance of our role in meeting the needs of our students. However, what is culturally responsive teaching? How can we actively advocate for equity for all and challenge prejudice of any kind?

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By Bobi White, MEd
Site Supervisor, College of Education  

In the past month, I have discovered that I have had teachers with wisdom in all shapes and sizes. A toddler gave me a hug because I apparently looked sad. A student-teacher taught me to look at an assignment for the first day of school with new eyes and interpretation. An experienced principal taught me a very simple way to do professional development that was rich in content and collaboration.

My favorite lesson came from watching a preschool classroom with a special needs child. The teacher prepared the class for a walk outside to discover signs of fall.

As they crossed the street, the child focused on an animal that was not moving at all. 

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By Emily Bergquist, MEd
Full-Time Faculty Manager, College of Education  

It is nearly impossible to understand just how much culture can influence teaching and learning until you have a classroom of your own. For me, this happened 10 years ago in my first classroom.

As a freshly graduated, first-year teacher, my ideas, strategies and theories were at the forefront of my mind. I was prepared to “seize the day,” or the classroom (something like that). I spent hours preparing materials and creative bulletin boards. I painstakingly took into account every nook and cranny of my new classroom.

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By Bethany Wilson
College of Education Student, Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education (Emphasis in English)

It has often been stated that not everything that is fair is equal. Many times, this can be seen in the field of education when realizing the importance of differentiation in the classroom. Providing equal treatment to all students may not be completely fair, because not all students need the same things.

All students come to the classroom with a particular set of needs and a diverse cultural background. Educators need to be aware of how to best teach them in a fair, but not always equal, manner.

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By Meredith DeCosta, PhD
Online Full-Time Faculty Manager and Assistant Professor, College of Humanities and Social Sciences

We’ve all witnessed the “heroes and holidays” phenomenon. One month a year an ethnic group is celebrated for their most popular heroes and accomplishments.

Sounds like a good idea, right? While this approach is nice in theory, it simply isn’t enough to lead us to a more socially just society.

As teachers, we have a big impact on the kinds of people our students turn out to be.

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By Carrie O’Donnell, MEd
Online Faculty, College of Education 

The phrase “unity in diversity” represents wholeness in difference. Unity in diversity can exist when there is respect and integrity. According to Steven Covey (1991), “Strength lies in differences, not similarities.”

Creating a classroom that is unified and diverse begins with the teacher. A word of advice that my mother has said and still says to me when I voice concern about people or situations comes from Proverbs 4:23.

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