Each year, faculty and staff who attend the NAIS People of Color Conference (POCC) return to Lowell eager to share their life-changing experiences. The conference is known to transcend professional development with affinity group attendees fostering deep personal connections and workshops that inspire and energize. This year’s conference—“1619. 2019. Before. Beyond: Amplifying our Intelligence to Liberate, Co-create, and Thrive” featured inspirational speakers Joy DeGruy Ph.D., Valerie Kaur, and Pedro Noguera, and workshops tackling hard-hitting topics such as anti-racist teaching, allyship, equity and justice in schools, and cultural competence.
This year, Lowell sent its largest group ever to PoCC, twelve faculty and staff members representing every division of the school including Head of School Donna Lindner. Lowell’s presence and participation in the conference is growing. Primary and Middle School division directors, Jason Novak and Kavan Yee, returned as facilitators of affinity groups, and Kavan spoke on a panel of administrators highlighting people of color in leadership roles. Additionally, Auxiliary Program Director Dawn Smith and 5th Grade Teacher April Greene presented a workshop, “Black Boy Joy, Black Girl Magic: The Importance of Relationship in Academic Success,” from their work on The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys. Seeing Black children struggle academically and socially in independent schools, Dawn and April were motivated to share with educators the importance of building relationships with Black students to ensure they are seen, feel valued, respected, and are connected to their classrooms and school communities.
Dawn and April say presenting was an incredible experience for them. Donna, who was in the audience, says she is “very proud” of Dawn and April. Not only was their workshop packed with attendees, many of whom had to stand, but they “hooked [their audience] in and kept them in for the full 90 minutes,” Donna said. According to April, the workshop “provided practical and immediate strategies” that teachers can implement upon returning to their classrooms. In fact, several attendees shared their plans to implement the strategies they had just learned. “I am always proud to reaffirm that Lowell really is on the leading edge when it comes to DEI work,” said Dawn.
Though not new to the conference, Donna admits that her role and experience at PoCC has changed now that she is a head of school: “It never occurred to me it would be different until I got there.” Considering that only a fraction of the 1800 NAIS member schools have heads of color and even fewer heads are women of color, Donna’s experience as a leader has positioned her as a well sought-after mentor, especially for colleagues seeking career changes into leadership roles. Donna relishes the “opportunity to pay it forward,” as she begins to take up-and-coming school leaders under her wing.