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Engaging Students Using Culturally Relevant Content with O’Sha Williams, Yovanny Vargas, Kajette Solomon, MJ Robinson, and Marianni Lefas-Tetenes

Seminar Description:

Session I

Lead Facilitators: O’Sha Williams | Yovanny Vargas

  • This session explored the intersectionality between Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, creating the safe space necessary to foster an optimal learning environment and supporting Multilingual Learners in our classrooms. Together, participants had an opportunity to deepen our communal understanding, share best practices, and engage in authentic dialogue, to best meet the needs of all students.

O’sha Williams is originally from Jamaica Queens, New York and has lived in Providence, RI for almost 6 years. She is an 11th and 12th grade English teacher for students learning English as a new language at Dr. Jorge Alvarez High School where she gets the opportunity to work alongside her students as a community partner. O’sha is a graduate student from Brown University’s Urban Education Policy program. She is passionate about establishing pathways for communities to be self-sustaining in every regard of education, particularly pipelines for the families served by PPSD to be more prominently represented among the educators, administrators, and legislators for this school district.

Yovanny Vargas is a Dean working at Blackstone Valley Prep middle school in Central Falls. He was recently accepted into The Principal Residency Network (PRN) with the hopes of attaining his administrative certificate by the end of the 2018-19 school year. He is also on the Eduleaders of Color R.I. advisory committee and currently working to build out a SEL curriculum tailored to young men of color with other educators in RI.

Session II

Lead Facilitators: Kajette Solomon | MJ Robinson | Marianni Lefas-Tetenes

  • Using artworks and artifacts to connect to students’ unique identities, backgrounds and interests is a powerful approach to value and center students’ experiences in relation to specific curricula. This session  used examples of culturally relevant objects at the RISD Museum and will provide strategies for responsive teaching with art. Led by museum educators, who work with classroom teachers teaching different subjects and ages, we explored a range of media and share strategies and practices for selecting and working with art to ensure and support students’ culturally diverse experiences and interests. We also addressed challenges and pitfalls and provide guidelines for inclusive practices.

Kajette Solomon is the Education Program Coordinator at the RISD Museum where she manages the Docent Program as well as the coordination and realization of the Museum’s many programs that create connections between audiences, collections, and exhibitions. Before moving to Rhode Island, Kajette was an Account Manager at Bridgeman Images in New York working with museums, educational publishers, advertising agencies and design firms. She has also held positions at Gallery Z in Providence, The Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College, the Studio Museum in Harlem and at David Zwirner Gallery in New York City. She has a BA in Art History from Arcadia University and MA in Modern and Contemporary Art History, Theory and Criticism from State University of New York at Purchase College.

MJ Robinson has been a Museum Educator connecting museum collections with K-12 curriculum since 2015. They are also a working writer, illustrator, and cartoonist. MJ organizes with the Providence chapter of Black and Pink, an open family of LGBTQ and/or HIV+ prisoners and “free world” allies who support each other, and with Showing Up For Racial Justice RI’s childcare collective, providing free childcare for social justice organizing led by People of Color. They also boost the work of RED ART, a group of artists currently incarcerated in Rhode Island that started with a vision to see “a world without prisons, oppression, war, or hate.” MJ is working toward a certificate in Children’s Book Illustration at RISD and holds a BA in Studio Art and Creative Writing from Oberlin College.

Mariani Lefas-Tetenes is Assistant Director for School & Teacher Programs and manages K-12 school visits, teacher professional development workshopsand coordinates the development of resources for students and teachers. She helped develop the RISD Museum’s multi-part program for Providence Public Schools launched in 2007. Prior she taught art history at the City University of New York (Kingsborough Community College) and worked in curatorial, conservation, education and editorial capacities for arts organizations including The Jewish Museum, the Grey Art Gallery at New York University, and The New-York Historical Society. Mariani has also worked as a labor organizer in New York City with the United Auto Workers (UAW). Mariani has a BA from Indiana University in Art History and Philosophy, an MA in Art History and Criticism from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and has worked towards a PhD in Art History at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.

Focus: Social Justice, Culturally Responsive Teaching, Visual Arts

Resources: To access the presentation and resources from this seminar visit this link.

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