By Shanelle Henry
Director of Equity and Inclusion
This summer, GFA hosted the Institute for Teaching Diversity and Social Justice (IDSJ). The Institute for Teaching Diversity and Social Justice (IDSJ) is a week-long experiential summer professional development program for educators and other individuals.
Equity and Inclusion
At Greens Farms Academy, we embrace, honor and affirm all members of our school community across race, age, gender identity and expression, ethnicity, family composition, ability/disability, learning styles, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and other characteristics that construct our unique identities. We seek to ensure that all aspects of school life — including curriculum, admission, retention, hiring practices, and support for students, families, and employees — reflect our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
I am so excited to be a member of this community! I feel privileged to work in a PreK–12 educational environment where our students are urged to explore their place in — and potential impact on — the world. Our mission calls upon us to prepare students for a life of purpose. This can (and should) be defined in many different ways, and that compels us to continue to do no less than our very best to maintain our commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive community that values the identities, perspectives, and experiences of all its members. Our motto, “Each For All,” demands nothing less.
One of the most critical elements of equity work in schools is strong and courageous leadership. The charge of shepherding a school’s equity and inclusion efforts is both complex and rewarding. It is my aim to ensure that all constituencies on campus, from our youngest learners to our most tenured faculty and staff, have an opportunity to be part of the voice and structure of what makes GFA unique. GFA is home to thousands of stories, and those stories — and the voices that tell them — make us strong.
We are writing the next chapter of what it means to be Greens Farms Academy.
Each for All.
Director of Equity and Inclusion
- CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTION
- STUDENT CLUBS AND PROGRAMS
- FACULTY AND STAFF
- FAMILY SUPPORT AND ENGAGEMENT
- ADMISSIONS, HIRING AND OUTREACH
- INSTITUTE FOR TEACHING DIVERSITY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
Our curriculum is grounded in supporting positive identity development for all students. Starting in Pre-Kindergarten, students engage vital questions of inclusion, equity, and social justice in developmentally appropriate ways. Our PreK-12 curriculum evolves continuously to include and affirm a wide range of voices, perspectives and social identities.
LOWER SCHOOL – Our lower school curriculum asks essential questions to help our youngest learners begin to think critically about their individual identities, celebrate cultural diversity, build cross-cultural relationships, and challenge assumptions and stereotypes.
MIDDLE SCHOOL – Throughout middle school and across disciplines, GFA students are taught to engage difference both curiously and respectfully as they consider issues of equality, human rights, and stereotypes. As an example, our English curriculum incorporates voices from a wide breadth of cultures and experiences, and students study American history by engaging with the complexity of our country’s story through diverse perspectives.
UPPER SCHOOL – Our curriculum in the upper school includes a number of courses focused on equity and inclusion. In Ninth Grade Seminar, students exercise the skills to critically analyze and discuss identity, privilege and marginalization, structural racism and discrimination. Throughout the disciplines, students are regularly exposed to speakers, writers, artists and others to learn about issues in society at home and abroad.
Each year, GFA Middle School and Upper School students regularly participate in regional and national conferences, including the annual National Association of Independent Schools’ Student Diversity Leadership Conference, the White Privilege Conference Youth Action Project, and the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools’ Student Diversity Leadership Conference. The Equity & Social Justice Seminar is an annual Upper School program at GFA that brings together current students and alumni from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds to engage in activities and dialogue about diversity and inclusion.
SPECTRUM – a student-led discussion group in the Middle School that explores the experiences and impacts of race, culture, and gender in students’ lives.
LEAD (Learning and Educating About Diversity) – a student-led club in the Upper School dedicated to exploring identity, equity and inclusion in the GFA community through dialogue and programs.
QUEST (Questioning, Understanding, and Educating about Sexuality Today) – the Upper School Gay/Straight Alliance, QUEST seeks to ensure that GFA is a safe space for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Students promote honest and open dialogue amongst their peers about LGBTQ+ issues through various activities and programs such as: LGBT History Month, Ally Week and the Day of Silence.
AFFINITY GROUPS – At GFA we are a professional community of teachers and learners. The term affinity group refers to people who share a similar identity but not necessarily the same experiences. Affinity Groups for Faculty and Staff at GFA exist as brave spaces for our faculty and staff to engage in critical self-reflection on their identities and the impact of power and privilege in their lives and practice. Participation in affinity groups ultimately strengthens the ties within the community and is central to creating an inclusive and thriving school for all of us.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT – Faculty members attend a variety of conferences and receive professional development training from organizations such as the National Association of Independent School (NAIS); the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) and the Association of Independent Schools in New England (AISNE). As a demonstration of our commitment to equity and inclusion, GFA is dedicated to sending a cohort of faculty to the NAIS People of Color Conference (PoCC) and White Privilege Conference each year.
FACULTY AND STAFF COMMITTEE ON EQUITY AND INCLUSION – open to all GFA faculty and staff, the Committee meets regularly throughout the school year and focuses its efforts on ways to nurture a professional culture that values diversity, encourages mutual understanding, promotes cultural competency and embraces courageous conversations with safety and respect.
GFA VOICES – an annual all-school celebration honoring our diverse, multicultural community. Students, faculty and families are invited to share and express their identities, traditions and perspectives through music, dancing, storytelling, artwork, creative writing, food and more.
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. COMMEMORATION PROGRAM – an annual all-school assembly to honor the life and vision of Dr. King through reflection, speakers, music, and more.
TRUSTEE COMMITTEE ON EQUITY AND INCLUSION – comprised of Board members, administrators, parents and alumni, the Committee works actively to support and promote GFA’s mission “to create and sustain a diverse and inclusive community that values the identities, perspectives, and experiences of all its members,” and develop deeper understandings of equity and inclusion definitions, language and practice.
The Office of Equity and Inclusion at GFA supports families by providing programming and discussions on understanding equity and inclusion within our school community.
FAMILIES OF COLOR WELCOME SOCIAL AND MEET & GREET – an affinity-based social gathering at the start of the school year for new and current families of color to meet and connect with one another and discuss identity-specific experiences and resources available for them.
PARENT CONNECTION MEETINGS – Parent Connection meetings consist of a series of casual parent meetings for each division at school throughout the year when parents meet to discuss social and emotional development topics related to their children.
At GFA, we believe each child and adult should be able to see themselves reflected within our school community. Our partnership with organizations such as A Better Chance, Horizons, and REACH Prep make it possible for us to meet students and families from a variety of backgrounds who will enrich our school community. It is also vitally important that our faculty and staff represent a broad range of backgrounds and human experiences. Attending job fairs that promote diversity and working with agencies like Nemnet and Strategenius, among others, allows us to draw from diverse pools of highly qualified teaching and staff candidates.
The Institute for Teaching Diversity and Social Justice is an experiential summer professional development program for educators and other individuals interested in building more inclusive and affirming classrooms through exploration and development of strategies and skills to effectively navigate diversity issues in independent schools.
By Shanelle Henry
By Yensen Lambert
World Languages Chair
For a person of color, such as myself, hair can dictate where you live, how you plan your day, what activities you engage in, how late you go to sleep, how late you wake up, and summer outings you choose to participate in. It’s that powerful. Allow me to explain.
By Jasmine Joseph ’20
Even when you think you know everything that there is to know, there is always more learn. That’s a saying that I (and I’m pretty sure most people) have heard throughout their lives. The Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) is a life-changing, informative conference that discusses diversity within independent schools.
By Betsy Bergeron
Upper School Choral Music Teacher
Transgender rights are human rights. It is so important that we speak up now for our trans friends, relatives, students, and teachers. We are not asking for special rights or favors, just the opportunity granted to any straight human being — to live their life with equal rights and without fear.
Director of Equity and Inclusion Shanelle Henry convened a group of GFA faculty for a workshop exploring areas of identity consciousness and clarifying the intents and purposes of affinity groups.
By Dmitry Vortman
GFA Security Officer
Bringing back the knowledge and traditions that I learned about my Jewish faith brings me closer to my religion. My message to you is to learn more about your heritage, about your culture, about your ancestors.
By Jenifer Bonilla
Let us go back to our early childhood, when we were introduced to the concept of empathy and not always thinking about what you want, but thinking about what others are feeling and going through. I am so proud of people who decide to come out, break the social norm, talk about this injustice, making it known that they will not be erased.
GFA’s commitment to building and nurturing an inclusive community is core to our mission. We believe:
- a diverse faculty, staff, and student body benefits and enriches all members of our community and is critical to meeting our educational aim of preparing students for their futures;
- our curriculum and co-curricular program must teach our students global competency and to espouse the habits, skills, and attitudes necessary to live and thrive in a multicultural and interconnected world;
- our community must be a place where all voices are heard, respected, and valued.
Shanelle Henry joined the GFA community in 2018 as the school’s new Director of Equity and Inclusion. A native of Brooklyn, she holds an undergraduate degree from Smith College and completed her graduate work at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Social Justice Education.
AND INCLUSION COORDINATORS