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“You Can Stand On My Shoulders” with Dr. Darlene Sampson, The Exit Interview, Episode 6

Equity is the goal for nearly every diverse school district in the country. As the ripple effects of generational trauma and systemic oppression continue to be felt in communities of color, especially Black and Brown communities, districts like the Denver Public Schools have created positions and offices of equity, inclusion, or both.

Dr. Darlene Sampson, equity specialist coordinator at the Western Educational Equity Assistance Center and a clinical field faculty in the Department of Social Work at Metropolitan State University of Denver, was once the director of Culturally Responsive Education in Denver Public Schools, bringing with her three decades of experience to a vitally important office, especially as the district sought to end generational inequity and trauma within the school system. In 2006 she stepped into the position, confident and excited to begin the work that not only was she was she passionate about, she had lived it, growing up in Pueblo, Colorado where “there were not that many of us.”

Soon, she discovered that her employer was not prepared to do the work. They were not ready for her greatness, which is to say that they did not establish the conditions under which true Culturally Responsive Education could grow. Instead of building a space for liberation, she describes her daily work as a battle ground, and even finds the term “Racial Battle Fatigue” to fall short in describing what she experienced. It was a plantation experience.

Today, Dr. Sampson shares with us her experiences fighting the good fight, the correct fight, and the work in which she is currently engaged. She harbors no ill will; she simply realizes that her employers were simply not prepared for what Culturally Responsive work required.

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99. From a Place of Love with Marylin Zúñiga

About 14 months ago, COVID-19 brought school as we knew it to a grinding halt. In the weeks and months that followed, the US education system scrambled to adapt, modernize, move all school operations online and generally attempt to continue business as usual over video calls and virtual learning platforms. We struggled with this. If you caught our episode “Pump the Brakes” in the spring, we expressed concern about this rush to continue schooling in the manner.

In July, the Education for Liberation Network broadcast a webinar titled “Repurposing Our Pedagogies” and among the brilliant voices sharing wisdom was the brilliant and loving Marylin Zúñiga, who declared that she “would not participate in business as usual.” She declared, along with other voices in the space that it was time to “decolonize time” and to maintain home as “a sacred place for healing.”

Marylin has moved with authenticity, spirituality, and swiftness since being a little girl who frankly, did not like school, to being a transformative and spiritual abolitionist voice in a wilderness that seeks only economic recovery and capitalist salvation at all costs. This conversation will move you, because it isn’t just about school, and it isn’t just about struggle and abolition and justice. It is about a humanizing “place of love” that transcends our fleeting institutions and dares to imagine a life worth living, with healing, in community.

You can check out the work of Marylin, Dani, and Anna at Quetzal Education Consulting, and you can follow Marylin and Quetzal on Instagram for regular inspiration. And you can support their organization by spreading the word about this great work.

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97. Educator and Children’s Author Hodo Hussein

This week, we bring you the amazing story of Somali-Muslim-Canadian educator and children’s book author Hodo Hussein. She joins us from a lockdown in Canada, where she describes the situation as ‘uncertain’ and ‘indecisive.’

During the course of a wonderfully insightful interview, we discuss representation of Muslim educators and communities, creativity, and following one’s dreams in hard times. It should be noted that Hodo did not set out to become a writer, but when she was separated from her students at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, she decided to take a creative approach to keeping a connection, affirming their sadness at no longer having school, and even improving their math skills. Her wonderful debut book, Manal Mahal and the Double Cookie Party is an affirmation of children’s feelings and willingness to go on in hard times.

Plus good laughs and a fire top five!

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Exit Interview 05. The Origins of Racial Battle Fatigue with Dr. William Smith part I

This is a real special episode of the Exit Interview! Asia and Kevin talk with Dr. William A. Smith, professor of Education and Ethnic Studies at the University of Utah. Dr. Smith, who developed some of the most profound research around the concept of Racial Battle Fatigue, shares his research, insights and experiences tracking this phenomenon.

In this profound and wide-ranging conversation, Dr. Smith discusses a veritable library of topics, so many that we decided to expand this conversation to two parts (Part II will be out this summer–stay tuned!). He shares his perspectives on the positioning of school leaders and teachers in regard to revolutionary action. He shares his thoughts on Black representation in film as a pacifying force. He names the genocidal actions taken against Black people both past and present.

Throughout this conversation with this next level scholar, the learning is strong, the struggle In contextualized, and the inspiration is total. Tune in!

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Breaking News! Colorado Senior Wins Princeton Prize for Race Relations!

Zaira Najera is a graduating senior at Eagle Valley High School in Gypsum, Colorado. Her family comes from Mexico and she is a first generation American, as well as a first generation college student. She co-founded and currently serve as co-chair for a club called SPICE (Students Promoting Inclusion and Civic Engagement) at EVHS, as well as a member of Youth Celebrate Diversity’s Student Virtual Board and YouthPower365 with their Leadership Team at Eagle Valley High School.

Zaira was recently awarded the prestigious Princeton Prize for Race Relations, which honors a handful of high school students across the country for their efforts to improve race relations in the communities. In 2021, only 29 high school students across the country won the award.

Zaira speaks with Gerardo about her commitment to social justice, her own experiences with racism and discrimination, and her desire to continue to work in community with others, as well as an excellent top five.

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01. Habitually Disruptive Premiere!

Welcome to the Habitually Disruptive podcast, hosted by me, 2021 Colorado Teacher of the Year Gerardo Muñoz. This TooDopeProduction aims to celebrate and amplify folx disrupting traditional education in favor of liberation and change for ALL students.

In this pilot episode, I interview Aspen High School’s Tameira Wilson, a seventeen year veteran who has dedicated her career to teaching multicultural curriculum to her students, who are more diverse than you may realize. We talk racism, COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, and law enforcement, plus a fire top five.

Read more about Tameira Wilson’s journey: aspentimes.com/news/black-educator-works-to-bring-more-multicultural-learning-perspectives-to-aspen-schools/

Royalty-Free music composed by Ketsa.  

La Ganadora! Juliana Urtubey, 2021 National Teacher of the Year

It was a beautiful, inspiring, tear-jerking moment. First Lady of the United States Jill Biden walked into Juliana Urtubey’s Nevada classroom, and presented the 2021 Nevada State Teacher of the Year, the first Latina to be recognized as such, with the 2021 National Teacher of the Year award. Juliana’s reaction was what those of us who are blessed enough to know her knew it would be. Surprise, amazement, humility, and tears at this culminating moment in her illustrious career.

We interviewed Juliana in March of this year, and found her to be one of the most genuine and loving humans we have come across in our career. This encore presentation of episode 90 is a tribute and a celebration of a Latina educator who leads with her heart and solves challenges with her mind, and who is just getting started. Ms. Earth, presente!!

98. 2020 Colorado Teacher of the Year Hilary Wimmer

It has been a long time coming, mostly because scheduling has been a steep learning curve for Gerardo. In this interview, we compare notes on being state teacher of the year, leading authentically, and tying the mental health needs of our students directly to the work we do in our classrooms.

96. Marianna Lucero of In Lak’ech Denver Arts

Marianna Lucero really didn’t have any interest in the arts, or in drama class. But she had a teacher who insisted. As Marianna continued through her education and adult life, she found that she could not cut the arts out of her life.

She became a teacher, responsible for teaching ALL the arts at her Southwest Denver elementary school. And as she connected with students, their families, and their communities, something special started to happen. Students who had gone on to middle school visited, telling her how much they missed her class, how much they missed her, and playfully suggesting, “Miss, why don’t you just keep teaching us?” In fact their enthusiasm was so real that it inspired her to pursue a Moonshot fellowship and establish In Lak’ech Denver Arts.

In this dynamic and inspiring episode, Marianna talks to Gerardo about her path to the arts, and her eventual arrival to a place where she was poised to make a real difference in the lives of kids and her community. Plus a FIRE top five. Follow them on IG at https://www.instagram.com/in_lakech_denver_arts/ and support at https://inlakechdenverarts.wedid.it/

Breaking News! Finishing the Game with the Ednium Alumni Collective

After months and months of discussion, community listening, planning, and research, the Denver Public Schools Board of Education stands poised to make a decision that could improve the future prospects of countless young people of color in our city. With the support of Ednium, the non-profit alumni collective organized by TeRay Esquibel, Denver could have graduation requirements in Ethnic Studies and Financial Literacy as early as 2023. All that remains is an important Board vote in June, and it could happen.

Ednium threw up the TooDope Bat Signal, and we are here to amplify this work. Listen to this episode, and then tweet or post using the hashtag #ifihadknown, followed by your story of how you would have benefitted from Ethnic Studies, Financial Literacy, or both. Be sure to tag @tayandersonco, @drolson4dps, @anhelacob, @revbrad, @bacon4co, @obrien4co, @scott4schools. Be sure to include @edniumalumni, @teray_esq and of course, @toodopeteachers when you do!

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