Teaching for Change in 2021

We are pleased to share selected highlights from Teaching for Change’s work in 2021. Our work is made possible by the ongoing support of allies like you. Help us deepen our impact by sharing these stories (as well as our resources) as we continue building social justice, starting in the classroom.

Please make a donation to ensure we can continue this work in 2022.

Defending Teachers’ Right to Teach Truth

In the face of well-funded right wing attacks on teaching honestly about U.S. history and current events, we mobilized and supported teachers. In D.C., we hosted a Teach Truth rally in collaboration with the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum. Nationally, our Zinn Education Project (with Rethinking Schools) created a Teach Truth Syllabus and organized pledge to Teach Truth Days of Action in June and August. These were the only national public events to protest the anti-history education legislation.

2021 Indigenous Peoples’ Day Curriculum Teach-In

My tab bar is exploding with all the links shared. One of the best professional developments I have attended in my 31 years in education. Thank you for all the hard work and thought that went into planning this.

This was one of the comments from the more than 500 teachers who attended the annual Indigenous Peoples’ Day Teach-In that we co-host with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). This year’s theme was Indigenous Land: Stewardship, Relationships, and Responsibility with a keynote by Dr. Kelsey Leonard (Shinnecock) and two rounds of workshops featuring classroom resources from the NMAI’s online education portal Native Knowledge 360° and the Zinn Education Project’s Teach Climate Justice Campaign. Read more.

Fourth Annual D.C. Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action

In February, Teaching for Change’s D.C. Area Educators for Social Justice collaborated on the fourth annual D.C. Area Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action. Hundreds of pre-K to 12 and college educators from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia engaged students in lessons about structural racism, intersectional Black identities, Black history, and anti-racist movements. In preparation, we hosted a virtual curriculum fair with Howard University attended by more than 500 educators from 42 states and D.C.

Decolonizing the Curriculum Series

We collaborated with the Washington Teachers’ Union to offer a Decolonizing the Curriculum professional development series in July and August. This six-session online series featured presentations on voting rights, the politics of hair, and Black Lives Matter in early childhood classrooms.

Third Annual Teach Central America Week

In October, we coordinated the third annual Teach Central America Week. Hundreds of educators from 38 U.S. states, D.C., and five other countries signed up to participate, using free lessons and resources from TeachingCentralAmerica.org. Organizations across the country endorsed the week and publishers donated books to give to teachers who shared stories. For example, Jaquelina Schmittlen in Knoxville taught about Central America through art. Her students learned about the art of weaving and Guatemalan culture from the picture book, Abuela’s Weave, then students and educators did their own weaving. Read more.

NEH Institute on the Civil Rights Movement

This experience was transformative and energizing. It is critical to be among a group of like-minded educators to gain strength, learn, and build support for liberatory education. I loved being able to learn about freedom schools from a mix of SNCC activists and scholars. I have soooo many pages of notes to be able to reflect on specific, new understandings. The facilitators were the most responsive group of facilitators I’ve ever had.

Thirty teachers, selected from close to 200 applicants, spent three weeks in July in a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Teacher Institute coordinated by Teaching for Change, the SNCC Legacy Project, and Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies. Read more.

New Social Justice Booklists

Our Social Justice Books website continues to be a destination for teachers, librarians, and parents looking for guidance on book selection. We added new booklists on dance, learning a skill, work, names, nature, neighborhoods, historical fiction, food and water justice, and more. We added titles to many of our existing lists and nearly 100 book reviews. We also expanded our collection of booklists relevant to Black Lives Matter at School.

Teach the Beat: Bringing Go-Go to D.C. Students

At a time when young people and teachers most needed the uplift of a go-go beat, we made that happen for more than 500 students in more than 30 classrooms. Thanks to grants from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and the D.C. Creative Affairs Office, and a donation from Ben’s Chili Bowl, we had funding to pay artists for classroom visits and for professional development. We also collaborated with the DC Public Library to produce three professional videos in a Go-Go Sounds of Summer series with artists JuJu, Sweet Cherie, and Sugar Bear. In the summer and fall, we coordinated two professional development sessions for teachers on how to bring go-go into the classroom with “Uncle” Devin Walker. We contracted with DCPS librarian Jonas Strickland and go-go musician Matthew Miller to help coordinate the activities.

Kaliq Crosby’s mural celebrating go-go music stands on a corner in Washington, D.C., where a battle over the culture and treatment of longtime residents spurred the #Don’tMuteDC movement. Photo: Allison Acosta

Teacher Working Groups in D.C. Metro Area

We added an elementary group, for a total of three social justice D.C. area teacher working groups that meet monthly to share lessons and strategies. This past year, the focus has been teaching in the midst of the pandemic. Thanks to a new donor, we offer a stipend to two teacher facilitators for each group to plan the agenda and run the respective sessions.

140,000 Teachers Joined the Zinn Education Project

Our Zinn Education Project (with Rethinking Schools) reached the milestone of 140,000 teachers registered to use our people’s history lessons! We developed lessons and offered workshops on climate justiceMcCarthyism, and the New York Times bestselling How the Word Is Passed by Clint Smith; engaged thousands of teachers in online classes with historians of the Black Freedom Struggle; formed and supported 100 Teaching for Black Lives teacher study groups; and more.

Howard Zinn Website and Social Media

We invited volunteers to help transcribe audio files by Howard Zinn, such as “Bob Moses and Howard Zinn at the Martin Luther King Jr.: The Leader and the Legacy Forum (1986).”

In preparation for the Howard Zinn Centennial in 2022, we invited key collaborators to share their plans and recommend areas of focus for the year.

We decided to focus on Zinn’s writing about prisons and his extensive correspondence with prisoners, and also to highlight the continuum of people’s historians who came before and after Zinn.

Let us know your plans — such as a display at your school or library, writing an op-ed, reading a book by Zinn in your book club, an art project, or hosting a podcast episode.

New Staff

We welcomed new staff members Keesha Ceran as associate director, Vanessa Williams as DCAESJ program manager, Kimberly Ellis as Education Anew Fellow, Paige Pagan as a Social Justice Books program specialist, and Mimi Eisen as a Zinn Education Project program specialist. During the spring and summer, we were joined by volunteer Lila Chafe who played a vital role in program planning and documentation.

In the Media

Teaching for Change was featured in Diverse Issues in Higher Education, Refinery29, and Washington History.

The Zinn Education Project was featured in ABC News, Education Week, Hechinger Report, Huffington Post, Ms. Magazine, The Progressive, Teen Vogue, Yahoo! Life, and more.

In Memory 

This was a year of mourning for many people who have informed and inspired our work.

There are too many to name them all, instead we will shout out a few whom we were closest to in person: Elizabeth A. Davis, Melvin Deal, Eloise Greenfield, James Loewen, Bob Moses, and Betty Garman Robinson.