Dr. Danielle Miles, a three-time Millersville University alumna and project director for the School District of York, will be offering a free virtual workshop on “Becoming a Culturally Relevant Teacher.” This workshop, held on Saturday, Feb. 3 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., will cover the Culturally Relevant and Sustaining Education guidelines as mandated by the PA Department of Education.
The event is possible with the help of a Pennsylvania Department of Education Prep 2 practice grant, secured with the help of Drs. Miriam Witmer, Aileen Hower and Abdulsalami Ibrahim. Miles was asked to speak as she is heavily involved in her school district, overseeing areas such as principal coaching and supervision; equity, inclusion and belonging; and educator effectiveness, among others.
Miles faced challenges as a woman of color majoring in math education. However, during her time at Millersville, she found others who helped her feel more at ease. “There were women and faculty who made me feel seen, heard and valued,” says Miles. “It’s hard to put a name on it, but there was this unspoken presence of power, where they held a space for women and helped me navigate throughout my undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees.”
Dr. Miriam Witmer, associate professor of educational foundations, shares that to be culturally relevant, teachers must understand how to implement culturally responsive practices in their classrooms. “However, even before that, teachers need to reflect on their own biases and take steps to address them so they can be an equitable teacher for all students,” she says.
“We live in such a diverse space. It would be unrealistic to expect us to learn absolutely everything,” Miles adds, explaining that cultural relevance is related to understanding yourself and your background and adjusting accordingly. “I hope attendees understand that most importantly, they have to understand themselves to be fully present.”
Witmer also notes that attendees will leave the workshop with the confidence to learn more about the culturally relevant competencies and continue to incorporate these ideas into their teaching philosophies and practices. “We hope that attendees will appreciate these competencies and develop a positive attitude toward meeting the needs of today’s diverse students,” she says.
While teachers and school administrators are invited, Witmer specifically explains that all education majors and pre-service teachers are strongly encouraged to attend this workshop. “Dr. Miles is an expert on culturally relevant and sustaining practices,” says Witmer. “This will give pre-service teachers an advantage when interviewing because they will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the new PDE guidelines, and it will help them develop their cross-cultural competence.”
Sharing the messages of cultural relevance and these course competencies is important to both Witmer and Miles.
“My research has focused on diversifying the teacher workforce, and one of the barriers for students of color when considering teaching as a future career is that they are too often marginalized in classrooms,” Witmer shares. “If this generation of educators understands and implements good culturally responsive practices, PK-12 students of color may see school as a more welcoming place that supports them. Then, they may choose to be a part of the school system, which would help to diversify the teacher workforce.”
Miles says sharing her expertise is meaningful to her because she knows what it feels like to be both accepted and to be left out of certain spaces. “I have this juxtaposition of having experiences on both sides,” Miles says. “Often, there are spaces where you are expected to fit in or don’t come, but it’s not healthy to leave who you are at the door. A culturally relevant teacher is one who understands this and sees you.”
“This is part of my call. It’s part of what I’m destined to do – create space for people,” Miles concludes. “It’s essential because you can’t build anything until you feel belonging, even if you have to make your own space at the table. That’s the culturally relevant space.”
For those interested in registration, click here.
For more information about educational foundations at Millersville University, visit https://www.millersville.edu/edfoundations/index.php.