Multicultural Instruction to Increase Equity

As a veteran educator in Columbia, South Carolina, my school has invested much time and energy into raising the expectations for our students over the past several years by raising our academic standards. But that alone is not enough; equally as important to ensuring all students are equipped to reach their potential is ensuring that equity exists in our schools and our classrooms.

In 2010, I joined a group called “Teachers for Equity in Education” that was formed by one of my former advisors at the University of South Carolina. The goal of this group was to explore and identify ways to increase equity in the classroom through the use of culturally relevant teaching practices. Being a member encouraged me to look more closely at diversity. One way I do this is by asking students to explore their own heritages and cultures through researching their backgrounds and conducting interviews with family members and other adults in their lives. They then use the collected information to write personal narratives, poems, and plays.

Using culturally relevant teaching techniques allows me to teach using a whole-child approach. It allowed me to expand the ways through which I teach literacy skills and was influential in my National Board certification. It has given me the opportunity to share my practices with other educators more broadly and also taught me a powerful life lesson: one of the most powerful ways to have an impact on a student’s life is to find a common thread they can relate to.

In June 2011, the Teachers for Equity in Education group received a grant to visit Sierra-Leone to participate in a Fulbright Hays Group Project Abroad with a Curriculum Development Team. The goal was to gain knowledge and gather artifacts, documents, experience and other data to be used to develop and implement curricula for the classroom and in pre-service teacher education.

We returned to South Carolina where we held a conference to address how to use culturally relevant teaching practices in concert with our state’s standards. We discussed how our time in Sierra-Leone could and should impact our classroom instruction and practice and how we, as educators, should be encouraging students to read and write more culturally relevant materials about their own backgrounds.                  

My participation in the Teachers for Equity in Education group provided me an opportunity to provide diverse learning experiences and approaches to teaching to my fellow educators.

To increase equity in the classroom, I feel that every teacher must become more skilled in incorporating culturally relevant teaching practices into their instruction. Because the teaching profession is underrepresented by minorities, it is imperative that teachers bring more diversity into instruction.  In order to do that effectively, and for that to be accomplished, teachers need high-quality professional learning opportunities.

Stephanie M. Johnson is a 2nd Grade teacher in Columbia, SC. She is certified in elementary, administration, and national board certified in early/middle childhood literacy. Stephanie was a 2018 Lowell Milken Educator for Unsung Heroes Fellow and was a 2017 Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence recipient, one of five educators from across the country to receive the annual honor. She enjoys consulting, public speaking, and being a community and education activist. Stephanie received a Bachelor of Arts in English and Master of Arts in Teaching degree from the University of South Carolina, also a Masters in Executive Leadership from Gardner Webb University.