Teaching for Change in 2023

We are pleased to share selected Teaching for Change highlights from 2023. 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 2024.

Defending Teachers’ Right to Teach Truth

Summer intern Becca Townley pictured at the Teach Truth rally at the African American Civil War Memorial.

In the face of well-funded, right-wing attacks on teaching honestly about U.S. history and current events, we mobilized and supported teachers. Nationally, our Zinn Education Project (with Rethinking Schools) organized the pledge to Teach Truth Days of Action in June. We secured the engagement of more than 50 co-sponsors, including the National Education Association, SURJ, Red Wine & Blue, GLSEN, the Human Rights Campaign, Learning for JusticePulitzer Center’s 1619 Education Program, and more.

In D.C., we hosted a third annual Teach Truth rally in collaboration with the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum. SNCC veteran Judy Richardson gave a talk titled “The fascists can’t stop us!”  

Indigenous Peoples’ Day Teach-Ins With the Smithsonian

On September 30, the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) and Teaching for Change co-hosted the 7th annual Indigenous Peoples’ Day Curriculum Teach-In for 110 educators in the museum. Held on the National Day of Remembrance for Indian Boarding Schools, this year’s teach-in focused on education sovereignty. Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Bryan Newland (Chippewa) offered a keynote and participants selected from two rounds of workshops on Indigenous peoples’ history and life today.

We also held an online teach-in on November 4. A participant noted,

When I come away from a learning opportunity hungry for more, I feel like another door has been opened. The keynote and both workshops have my mind spinning on how I can incorporate these conversations into future possibilities.

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

D.C. Area Educators for Social Justice (DCAESJ) continued to nurture and grow the ways in which we uplift the 13 guiding principles and national demands of Black Lives Matter at School. In January, we held the sixth annual Black Lives Matter at School virtual curriculum fair. Hundreds of people from across the country gathered virtually to prepare for the Week of Action and Year of Purpose.

Participants benefited from welcoming remarks by BLM at School representatives N’Kengé Robertson and chanel hurt, grade level gallery walks, and eleven interactive curriculum workshops.

Thanks to donations by publishers, curriculum fair participants who completed the evaluation were entered for a chance to win one of 50 books for children or young adults and educators who submitted teaching stories during the week of action received a book related to African American history and culture.  

Teach Central America

In October, we coordinated the fifth annual Teach Central America Week. Hundreds of educators from 38 U.S. states, D.C., and Costa Rica 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, at Bruce Monroe at Parkview in D.C., there was a school-wide carnival of learning about Central America with every grade showcasing their work.  The third graders had studied public monuments and memorials to community and historical figures — with a focus on African American and Central American leaders. They asked the audience for their session: What should be the criteria for awarding a public celebration? Who has a monument? Who deserves a monument?

Social Justice Books

Our Social Justice Books website continues to be a destination for teachers, librarians, and parents looking for guidance on book selection. 

To assist organizations hosting banned books giveaways, we curated a list of recommended banned books to shine a light on titles with a social justice theme. We challenged Scholastic’s opt-out of diversity practice and we documented an innovative 4th grade classroom that studied and challenged book bans

In light of the current crisis in the Middle East, we expanded and promoted our book list on Palestine

As we do every year, we reviewed titles, bringing our total to close to 550 reviews and adding dozens of titles to recommended lists.

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

Go-go keyboard player and teaching artist Sweet Cherie signing autographs for her 5th grade fans.

More than 2,000 students and dozens of educators in 18 classrooms learned more about the official music of D.C. through our Teach the Beat program. After one of the visits, E.L. Haynes PCS social studies teacher Barrie Moorman said, 

It was amazing! JuJu brought so much joy and engaged students in experiencing go-go. Students were energized and excited to learn more about D.C culture and history as a result of the visit.  

We continued the partnership with the basketball team, Capital City Go-Go — coordinating go-go educational programs at their games and for their team and staff. 

D.C. Area Educators

Makai Kellogg and Vanessa Williams at a writing for publication workshop facilitated by Rethinking Schools executive director Cierra Kaler-Jones.

D.C. area teacher working groups continued to meet monthly. There are three teacher-led working groups: early childhood, elementary, and middle/high school. Working group members discussed teaching challenges and collaborated on lessons on gender equity, holidays, environmental justice, and D.C. statehood.

They helped plan for the Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action and Teach Central America Week; presented workshops and hosted an information table at the second annual Social Justice Curriculum Fair; and testified at the Teach Truth Day of Action. In addition, the groups combined meetings for sessions at the Smithsonian Anacostia Museum, the Smithsonian American History Museum, and the new site for the African American Civil War Museum. 

For the 12th year, we brought filmmakers to D.C. schools during International Filmfest DC. We facilitated nine classroom visits on documentaries about controversial public art, immigration lawyers working on the border, D.C. Black businesses and gentrification, finding love at a bus stop, D.C.’s music history, and more. Read about this year’s films and visits.

Second Annual Social Justice Curriculum Fair

In August, the D.C. Area Educators for Social Justice (DCAESJ) hosted its second annual Social Justice Curriculum Fair in Washington, D.C. Educators from the D.C. metro area gathered to learn about local organizations supporting social justice education, participate in workshops across subjects and grade levels, and learn about DCAESJ in preparation for the 2023-2024 school year.

There were workshops on banned books, disability theory, gender identity in early childhood, equitable game math design and play, storytelling, literature to decolonize the canon, and more. Breakfast and lunch were provided and everyone walked away with a children’s or young adult book of their choice. Read more.

Zinn Education Project

Our Zinn Education Project (with Rethinking Schools) reached the milestone of 160,000 teachers registered to use our people’s history lessons.

We developed new lessons on Reconstruction, environmental justice, and labor; engaged thousands of teachers in online classes with historians of the Black Freedom Struggle; formed and supported a fourth round of 100 Teaching for Black Lives teacher study groups; produced the first ever climate crisis timeline; shared resources on Palestine and Israel through the lens of history; and more.

Virginia Interscholastic Association

An important story in Virginia’s African American history will be made accessible to the public thanks to a generous donation to Teaching for Change from activist athletes Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss. In honor of renowned athletes Arthur Ashe and Doug Smith, their gift funded the processing and digitization of the Virginia Interscholastic Association (VIA) archives held at Virginia State University. Teaching for Change contracted with archivist Micha Broadnax to coordinate this effort.

Howard Zinn Legacy

Our staff continued to maintain the Howard Zinn website, e-newsletter, and social media. This year we shared news of the new young readers edition in Spanish of A People’s History of the United States; essays by Zinn on Palestine and Israel; and news of events, including the Howard Zinn Bookfair and the Howard Zinn Memorial Lecture.

Staff and Interns 

Becca, Deborah, and Lucy.

During the 2023 summer, Teaching for Change was joined by four interns, Becca Townley (Truman Scholar, Saint Louis University), Deborah Jung (Dartmouth College), Lucy Sieczka (University of Arizona), and Maddy Kessler (Bryn Mawr College). Becca, Lucy, and Maddy kicked off their summer with our annual #TeachTruth Day of Action. Throughout the summer, they visited museums, attended forums, wrote book reviews, produced podcasts, and more. Deborah’s reflections were echoed by all four:

I appreciated the supportive work environment, as well as Teaching for Change’s commitment to radical politics and community work. I confirmed that I’m definitely interested in history and social studies education. I gained experience producing educational material and working collaboratively. 

Kim Ellis and DCPS high school teacher Zach Wilson.

Kimberly Ellis, wrapped up her two year, half-time Communities for Just Schools Fund (CJSF) Education Anew Fellowship with Teaching for Change.

Ellis made profound contributions to many aspects of our work, including co-facilitating the D.C. Area Educators for Social Justice program.

With DCAESJ program manager Vanessa Williams, Ellis visioned and planned the inaugural Social Justice Curriculum Fair in 2022 — now an annual event.

In the News

Teaching for Change was featured in The AFRO, In These Times, News One, USA Today, Washington Informer, WTOP, and more.

The Zinn Education Project was featured in the Brattleboro Reformer, Education Week, Facing South, Hechinger Report, KALW, KBOO, NEA Today, The Progressive, Publishers Weekly, Teen Vogue, TruthOut, USA Today, Word in Black, and more. 

In Memory

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

This year saw the passing of Ady Barkan, Harry Belafonte, Dik Cool, Daniel Ellsberg, Roland Freeman, Chester Hartman, Juadine Henderson, Judy Heumann, Norm Fruchter, Sinead O’Connor, Sandra Casey Hayden, John Pilger, Roslyn Pope, Jane Power, Randall Robinson, Hollis Watkins, Benjamin Zephaniah, and many more.


View PDF of Year End Highlights