The big moment is here! Teaching Tolerance is pleased to introduce to our community five visionary educators who use their talents to reduce prejudice, improve intergroup relations and promote equity in their school communities all year long. That’s why they were selected to receive the 2014 Teaching Tolerance Award for Excellence in Teaching. Christopher Avery, Amy Vatne Bintliff, Christopher Hoeh, Barrie Moorman and Michelle Nicola received their awards at a ceremony on Sunday, July 13 in Montgomery, Ala.
“The winners of this award are expert social-justice educators,” said Teaching Tolerance Director Maureen Costello, “and who better to learn from? We believe their work will inspire other teachers and encourage them to lead and innovate in their own school communities.”
Over the three days leading up to the award ceremony, the awardees attended a teacher leader summit during which they participated in workshops designed to capture their unique contributions and share them with the larger TT community.
The awardees also welcomed TT into their classrooms this past spring where our staff gathered footage of these innovative leaders in action. We hope you’ll take a few moments to get to know them better—and to be inspired!
Chris Avery is a teacher, writer and consultant who engages his students intellectually by challenging them to think along social justice lines—globally. As the director of programs at Steppingstone Scholars, he applies this philosophy in his work helping underserved students achieve academic success. He also wedded creativity and rigor in his former role a world cultures teacher at The Haverford School, where he had his students write their own textbooks that challenged prejudices about the Arab world.
Avery fosters incredible rapport with students, empowering them to make choices that improve their own lives and their diverse world. He incorporates this talent into his consulting work for TURNING STONEchoice, a non-profit dedicated to helping students make self-empowering choices. He is also the author of ANGST, a young adult novel about navigating high school.
Amy Vatne Bintliff
Oregon Middle School
Amy Vatne Bintliff brings her deep commitment to human rights advocacy and multiculturalism to her day-to-day work as a reading teacher. She is also a researcher and writer who believes strongly in listening to the voices of adolescents. She practices this belief by creatively incorporating the Teaching Tolerance Anti-bias Framework (ABF) into her curriculum and restorative justice-based discipline planning.
Bintliff sought training as a human rights educator through The Advocates for Human Rights and has facilitated restorative justice circles since 2003. Her circles impacted students so deeply that some of them petitioned the school for more circles, which are now used throughout campus and are available to all students. Bintliff is also the author of Re-engaging Disconnected Youth: Transformative Learning through Restorative and Social Justice Education.
Cambridge Friends School
Chris Hoeh seeks challenges as an educator, teaching his second-graders sophisticated and complex topics like American slavery, Jim Crow and current labor injustice, notably through his academically rigorous, multidisciplinary and yearlong social studies curriculum. After tracking their own processes of growing, picking and cleaning cotton from a classroom plant, Hoeh’s young students—without his prodding—determined that the cotton gin was an instrument of enslavement. This year, his students took action based on their cotton-growing experience and learning, protesting unfair labor practices via petition. Hoeh is also a leader in his school, facilitating anti-racist study groups and sharing his substantial experience as a mentor to other practicing teachers.
E.L. Haynes Public Charter School
Barrie Moorman engages her history students by taking them out of the classroom and into the community. As an educator of many low-income high school students and students of color in the D.C. area, she wants her students to feel connected to their city and view its monuments and history as their own. This year, Moorman devoted her spring break to taking students on a civil rights road trip across the South. In preparation for that trip, she arranged for her students to meet with U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who answered their questions and enabled them to connect their learning to a person who brought the movement to life.
Talking about race and identity is a priority in Moorman’s classroom. Examining these topics is, she feels, critical to developing the skills students need to interrupt inequity and achieve successful outcomes. Moorman also facilitates Race and Equity in Education Seminars in D.C.
Michelle Nicola sees creating a more equitable world as the ultimate adventure of her life. Nicola’s students, idealism and love of community inspire her as a Spanish and language arts teacher who also teaches about the power of kindness and respect.
In her former role as a Spanish teacher at De La Salle North Catholic High School, Nicola facilitated a heritage club for students of all backgrounds, moving away from a “fabric and foods” approach to teaching about culture in favor of delving further beneath the surface. This year’s club theme, “What does it mean to be an ally?” exemplifies Nicola’s aim to be the best ally possible for her students. She is also committed to making school fun for students. While her students outwardly bemoan it, Nicola is always ready to turn her classroom into a theater, dance club, kindergarten or soap opera.