Schools Partnership engages hundreds of K-12 educators

Education Dialogue spring 2016 1

An exploration of ways to inspire racial and social justice organized by the Five College Schools Partnership drew 130 K-12 teachers, college and high school students and higher education instructors from around western Massachusetts. The education dialogue was one of many examples of the partnership bringing together the energy and resources of Five College faculty members and classroom teachers.
Founded in 1984 to provide professional development opportunities to K–12 educators, the partnership has been directed for the past three years by Marla Solomon, who works with an advisory committee composed of school administrators and teachers from Hampshire and Hampden counties as well as faculty and staff members from all five campuses. Ongoing partnership projects include the Western Massachusetts Math Partnership, the Doors to the World multicultural literacy effort, professional development in Native American history and exploring the creation of a Five College certificate program in arts integration.

March’s dialogue featured discussions led by UMass Amherst professor emerita Sonia Nieto and UMass Boston professor Mark Warren. “We spent the evening sharing ideas and seeking solutions to the racial realities and tensions in our schools,” says Beverly Bell, director of the Master of Arts in Teaching Program at Mount Holyoke, who helped organize the event. “It offered an opportunity for educators to seek colleagues to collaborate with and search for progressive and meaningful ways to create safe spaces for all our students and to embrace the rich diversity our communities offer.

Education Dialogue spring 2016 1

Held in Holyoke, the dialogue drew faculty members and students from UMass, Amherst, Mount Holyoke, Smith and colleges in the Springfield area as well as K-12 educators from as far away as Pittsfield.

Another current partnership program aimed at promoting social and racial justice by means of increased classroom diversity is the Diverse Teacher Workforce Coalition. Working within the coalition, Bell and Mount Holyoke’s Master of Arts in Teaching program in January 2016 launched Urban Teacher Pathwaysa collaboration between Mount Holyoke and Holyoke Public Schools, for current paraprofessionals and other unlicensed educators to become certified to teach. Says Bell, “we believe that partnering with local school districts, which is the mission of our Five College Schools Partnership Committee, is of paramount importance to the professional health of teaching in our public schools and connecting the pre-K through 16 system.