The goal of the National Center for Urban Education (NCUE) is to support Illinois State University’s rich history of teacher education through a focus on social justice and community-integrated teaching. As part of our mission, this spring we were excited to partner with the National Board Resource Center (NBRC) at ISU to create culturally relevant professional development webinars offered to NBRC candidate cohort facilitators (CCFs) who lead and support Illinois teachers through the National Board Certification process.

The NCUE Professional Development webinar series, designed by Dr. Apryl Riley, NCUE program manager, and Jennifer O’Malley, NCUE Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline director, advanced the NBRC priority of ensuring equity, diversity, and inclusion in their programming and the development of an equity lens for all participants. As Jennifer Smith, Assistant Director at NBRC noted, “In the pursuit of continued growth and improvement, the NBRC created a design team to lead Teachers of Color focus groups. The data from these focus groups informed the decision to seek a partnership with NCUE to deliver webinars for our cohort facilitators.” 

The two-part webinar series specifically aligned to the Illinois Culturally Responsive Teaching & Leading Standards and ISBE Equity Goals. The first session, Exploring Identity & Community Building, centered on the concept that we must know ourselves to authentically engage with others. Together we explored our individual identities and how they intersect with interactions within our professional community. Then we examined methods of building community and the importance of cultivating relationships to foster culturally responsive learning spaces. 

The second session, Connecting & Supporting in Professional Practice, delved deeper into tools and strategies to build community within a cohort, especially in a virtual space. Participants engaged with the work of Dr. Chezare A. Warren, Dr. Rita Kohli and Dr. Marcos Pizarro, and the Institute for Teachers of Color Committed to Racial Justice as well as other resources to inform their understanding of the current climate for teachers of color.  Circle practice, listening with empathy, proactive individual and group check-ins, creating affinity groups, and centering scholars of color in selected readings and resources were explored as ways to develop and nurture participants in a learning community. 

Thought Partner Community is a key NCUE-created strategy to support connection in a learning space.

One NCUE-created strategy modeled in the workshop involved connecting outside the workshop in a Thought Partner Community (TPC). TPC is a practice to support intentional relationship building in a learning community, especially in a virtual space where connection can be more challenging. Participants partner with another peer, ideally in a similar teaching field/grade level, but practicing in a different district to expand their network.  The partners connect outside the formal seminar time to share insights scaffolded with guiding questions. By working independently with another learner to process key concepts between sessions, participants found that they not only clarified and deepened their understanding, but they also formed a connection and started to build a relationship with another peer in the learning space. Both outcomes are equally critical.

NCUE was honored to partner with NBRC on this professional development series to support their data-informed EDI initiative. As one participant shared in the evaluation, “This was a very interesting topic that definitely needs more light and more support. It has made me think more about how to support my cohort candidates and take what I know back to my diverse school environment.”

We look forward to future collaborations.

Interested in partnering with NCUE on culturally responsive professional development? Please reach out to Dr. Maria Luisa Zamudio-Mainou, NCUE executive director for a menu of current offerings. NCUE is always open to tailoring a session or series to your specific needs.