In-Service for SECC Teachers

Posted on Jun 13 2019

On Monday, April 29, educators from Southeastern California Conference K-12 schools came together at the Loma Linda Korean church in Redlands for a day of learning and professional growth at early childhood through grade 12 in-service.

This year’s theme was “Embracing and Appreciating Diversity and Equity In Our Schools,” which was meant to equally challenge and encourage teachers and administrators in their work both hands on in the classroom and as they develop policy, respectively, to better engage with and improve outcomes for all students.

“As educators we never stop learning, and we look for ways to improve ourselves so we can better serve our students and families,” said Elizabeth Muñoz Beard, principal at Orangewood Academy. “Equity and diversity are subjects we should have been talking about a long time ago. As Seventh-day Adventist Christians we embrace cultural diversity, but it is still an area we need to grow in.”

Some of the questions, among others, that educators were encouraged to ask themselves was: how can teachers create lessons that engage all learners? What does it mean to have an equitable classroom? How does having a culturally responsive classroom promote engagement? Educators were also encouraged to not merely tolerate differences but to honor diversity.

Another area covered was grading practices, including the impact of personal beliefs or, what is referred to, as “unconscious bias,” can play a in how a teacher grades student work even if the teacher is not consciously or willfully doing so.

The concept was that when it comes to equity in grading factors such as, but not limited to, access to adequate homework assistance at home or to a computer, should be taken into consideration in evaluating a student’s performance.

Steve McLain, an academy science teacher at La Sierra Academy said that even though he already implements many of the ideas shared, the in-service was one of the best he had attended.

He also shared one principle that he implements in his classroom to ensure equity, is keeping students informed about everything he is working on.

“I make sure that students know what I’m doing, so that there are no surprises later, and that the work is achievable by everyone,” he said.

As part of the training, the terms equality and equity were also clearly differentiated and defined. As it pertains to education, equality means that every student may have access to the same opportunities, but equity means that resources and approaches are tailored to each student’s specific needs and circumstances, and that there is no one size fits all approach. They are essentially defined as the difference between same and fair.

According to Don Dudley, conference superintendent, in-service feedback has been positive, adding that some schools have already been addressing some of the information and ideas they learned, in their faculty meetings.

“We really wanted to challenge teachers to think about how they engage with students, and their grading practices,” he said. “I’ve received really positive comments about how in-service helped raise the level of awareness.”

By Cynthia Mendoza