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Staff Spotlight: SEED Facilitators Dr. Annie Soler, Amanda McCarther, and Jillian Wolf

In the fall of 2018, Stuart began work with The National SEED Project (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity)SM by enlisting a cohort of faculty and staff members led by Jillian Wolf and Maria Spina. The mission of SEED, as stated on the website of the National SEED Project, is “to develop leaders who guide their peers in conversational communities to drive personal, organizational, and societal change toward social justice.” The current facilitators are Dr. Annie Soler '02, Director of Service Learning and Campus Ministry; Amanda McCarther, ELL Specialist; and Jillian Wolf, Director of Library Services. Their hope is that every faculty and staff member here at Stuart will participate in this training so that we are all equipped with the knowledge and tools necessary to move DEI work forward in our community. Below is an interview with Annie, Amanda and Jillian to learn more about SEED at Stuart and their own personal and professional goals. 
 
How did you get involved in SEED and what are some of your personal/professional goals? 
 
Amanda: I was a member of the first cohort last year. As a woman of color, a member of the diversity committee, and an individual who is deeply invested in creating more welcoming and equitable spaces in the independent school world (and beyond), I wanted the opportunity to increase my own knowledge, examine my biases, and continue to chip away at the things that I didn’t know that I didn’t know. Serving as a SEED facilitator this year seemed like the best next step to continue my growth and continue challenging myself. I want to use the knowledge and experience I have gained through SEED to better inform my work as an international educator and as a mentor to students of color. Growing up, I did not have a single teacher of color until high school and did not have a teacher who was a woman of color until college. I want girls of color to be able to have a mirror in a space that has largely been dominated by whiteness. 
 
Annie: I was also a member of the first cohort last year. When the invitation was sent all faculty and staff, I immediately signed up to participate in the cohort. I wanted to educate myself and engage in deep and meaningful discussions with my colleagues. Last year I also attended POCC for the first time, and together these experiences really helped me to understand my own internalized oppression as a white-passing person of color. Additionally, I reflected more deeply on my own privileges and how they have served me throughout my life. I was honored to be asked to lead this year’s SEED cohort and attended the intensive New Leader training with Amanda. There I connected with a broader community of allies, friends and advocates. I have learned so much about what I didn’t even know I didn’t know, and my goals are to never get comfortable and complacent with injustice. 
 
Jillian: I was introduced to SEED during our 2015 Diversity Audit through Diversity Directions. I was eager to be a part of such necessary and timely conversations here at Stuart, so when the opportunity to lead the inaugural group was introduced, I jumped at the chance. Through my participation in New Leader’s Week and the planning of our first curriculum, I was able to practice a lot of self-education and investigation that has enriched my own teaching and how I engage with everyone in our community. My personal goals of ensuring that the spaces that I maintain at Stuart are safe and welcoming environments that personally serve each student, and that our materials and resources provide windows and mirrors, have deepened since embarking on my SEED journey. I hope to keep exploring and challenging my own understandings not just so that I am a better educator, but so that I am a better colleague and friend to all.
 
Please talk about the professional development that you are facilitating with our faculty/staff. Can you share anecdotes from recent trainings?

 
Amanda: Our work largely revolves around unpacking the different identifiers that we all carry and we spend the year focusing specifically on: gender, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religion, ableism, and ageism.  
 
Annie: The faculty who choose to be involved are very open and eager to learn about themselves and about others in our community. They ask valuable questions and challenge themselves to be uncomfortable in a safe space. As a result, very enriching discussions take place. Everyone is willing to examine our school community and ask questions about who we are and how we can be better. 
 
Jillian: Faculty have shared with us that the lessons and practices we’ve introduced in our space have enriched their own curriculum. Their integration of identity work and new voices into their own teachings provides our students with a deeper understanding of the world around them and helps them to engage with one another in thoughtful new ways.
 
How has SEED had an impact on your work as an educator? 
 
Amanda: It has increased my awareness about my own biases and how they play out in my speech and behavior with students and colleagues. It has also helped me become a better mentor and advocate for our minority students. 
 
Annie: It has made me critically look at the policies and systems we have in play within our school and question which ones perpetuate injustice and which ones work to dismantle it. 
 
Jillian: The work we do in SEED asks a lot of us - to investigate our own biases and ways of engaging with others, to never stop asking questions, to do the work, essentially to be a student! By working in ways similar to the ways we ask of our young students, we are reminded of those moments of challenge and growth that occur in our academic evolutions.
 
Since parents, teachers, students and families who are interested in Stuart will read this, what do you want people to know about SEED? Is there a way to get involved without being employed with a school?
 
The faculty are very committed to this work. Completing a year of SEED doesn’t serve as a badge indicating “you’re done.” We recognize that this is ongoing work for the rest of our lives both personally and professionally. We hope to bring the work of SEED to the broader Stuart community in the future and always encourage courageous conversations and self-examination from everyone involved in our school.
 

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