Coming Together to Create Change: GEG Chicagoland’s Educators of Color Networking Event
By: David Chan and Jennie Magiera
GEG Chicagoland has grown to be an active educator community since its inception several years ago. We have hosted student film fests, innovation incubators, study groups, lesson plan jams, and leadership camps. However, at our July leadership event, we recognized a need to build greater representation from educators of color. We brainstormed ideas to address this and decided that a first step was to form an affinity group networking event to build awareness and increase access. On Friday, September 15th, GEG Chicagoland hosted an educators of color networking social for 37 local educators. The theme of the night was putting equity into action. Britton Picciolini from Google hosted the event on Google Chicago’s rooftop. We reached out to fellow educators of color in our Professional Learning Networks come out and bring up to three colleagues new to the group. Jennie’s colleagues Ken Shelton and Monica Martinez from EdTechTeam joined the event to share their perspectives and lend some inspiration.
The first step was beginning the conversation. As attendees came out to the rooftop, they were greeted with stacks of post-its and pens to respond to six questions:
- How do you define your identity as an educator?
- What are some actionable ways GEG Chicagoland can more intentionally invite and include educators of color?
- What kinds of events would you want to attend in the future?
- What questions do you have regarding educational technology and its role in schools?
- What are some root causes that lead to a lack of diverse representation in EdTech spaces?
- What’s your next move after today?
To help ignite the discussion, Monica shared her story around finding her voice. “It is through the encouragement of my colleagues of color from around the world that I’ve been able to reconnect with my voice and take ownership of who I represent,” she said. “We are empowered by one another and so it’s important that we continue to connect with each other.”
As the attendees moved through the event, making new connections, answering questions and discussing their next move, it became clear how needed the evening was. This planned evening social was a small but important step in creating something larger. So many educators in attendance remarked that getting together in a safe space, with other colleagues with underrepresented voices, was empowering in and of itself. The resounding comment was “we need to do this more often.”
However, we knew that getting together and discussing issues was just the beginning. As the sun set in the West Loop, we gathered in a circle and each said one word to represent what was most needed to serve the mission of diversity, equity and inclusion in education – and specifically the EdTech space. Not surprisingly, all of the responses all centered around the theme of the evening: “Action”. And so we ended the evening by collecting calls to action and creating next steps to put them into movement.
Impassioned conversations and engaged voices set the charge for building access to and awareness of opportunities in EdTech. As such our team is working with volunteers from that night to organize more educators of color affinity group networking events, create study groups and grow this ready-to-act community. In less than a week, we had already connected with a GEG group in Toronto, Canada who wants to replicate this event and we have started planning our second Chicagoland event in collaboration with LEAP Innovations.
During the event this statement was shared: “As educators of color, we will no longer wait to be invited into spaces. We will create new spaces, and force action to adapt existing spaces to be more welcoming and inclusive. We will work together to make this happen, through collegiality and collective action.”
There is so much to do, and thankfully we’re only one among many like-minded educator groups trying to make a difference. We look forward to continued action in this area, hope to collaborate with others who are interested and invite everyone to join us in this mission.
For more photos: Event Photo Album
Director of Instructional Technology
Evanston Township High School (Evanston, IL)
Chief Program Officer