This year’s TEACH conference, July 6-10, features a powerful cohort of speakers who have been making headlines on the issues we care most about—civics education, voting rights, public education advocacy, equity, anti-racism and self-care for educators who have faced inconceivable challenges during the pandemic. The lineup includes Stacey Abrams, founder of Fair Fight Action and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate; Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist and Stamped from the Beginning; and Dena Simmons, founder of LiberatED, among others.
At the first general session, Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET, AFT President Randi Weingarten will kick us off by honoring educators for their dedication during the most challenging year of their professional lives and sharing a vision for all students to thrive as we launch the AFT’s Back to School for All campaign. She’ll talk about returning to in-person learning fully and safely, and she’ll focus on how we can help students recover socially, emotionally and academically. We’ll also hear more on how we can reimagine education to spark students’ passions, nurture critical thinking based on facts, and bring learning to life.
Ibram X. Kendi is next up on Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET. The award-winning author of the wildly popular How to Be an Antiracist and also Stamped from the Beginning: A Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America will join AFT Secretary-Treasurer Fedrick Ingram and other AFT members for a free-ranging discussion about developing anti-racist mindsets and actions—inside and outside classrooms. Kendi has risen to national prominence with his books, and most recently he co-authored Stamped, the young adult version of Stamped from the Beginning, with popular YA author Jason Reynolds. The AFT is distributing a special AFT edition of Stamped to TEACH participants for their classrooms.
Stacey Abrams, who made a tremendous impact on voter turnout during the 2020 elections, is another powerhouse influencer speaking at TEACH. Her organization, Fair Fight Action, was instrumental in bringing thousands of voters to the polls in Georgia—voters who changed the balance of power in the U.S. Congress by electing two Democrats to the Senate. On Thursday at 3:30 p.m. ET, Abrams will talk about the importance of civic education and preparing students to participate meaningfully in civic life, first and foremost by advocating for free and fair elections. Joining her will be the AFT’s Weingarten and Danielle Allen, a Harvard professor who focuses on democracy innovation, public health equity and justice reform. Allen also directs the Safra Center’s Democratic Knowledge Project, which is reimagining K-16 civic education. Attendees will leave with ideas, tools and strategies to help students better understand and participate in our democracy.
On Friday at 3:30 p.m. ET we’ll hear from Dena Simmons, founder of LiberatED, a collective that develops school-based resources for social and emotional learning, racial justice and healing. Her presentation, “When the World Feels Heavy: Self-Care, Healing and Equity-Responsive Practices,” will acknowledge the challenges of teaching during a pandemic and help educators learn more about how best to meet the needs of our students, create systemic change, and commit to anti-racist practices to ensure equity and facilitate healing.
The U.S. Department of Education will be front and center on Saturday, the final day of our conference, when Cindy Marten, the department’s deputy secretary, participates in a conversation about the future of public education with AFT Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus and Secretary-Treasurer Fedrick Ingram at 10:30 a.m. ET. They will discuss the challenges of the past year, current work being done to build a brighter future, and a vision for equity and access in public education. The session will close with a thank-you message from Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.
Of course the general sessions are only part of TEACH: Look to them for inspiration, then dig deeper in dozens of workshops and a virtual expo that will help you apply the ideas that will fuel our work moving forward.