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CTA’s Equity & Human Rights Conference had a big impact on attendees this past weekend, March 17-19, in Santa Clara.

“This conference touched my soul and my heart,” said Shawn Quiane, an Alisal Teachers Association member. “It was invigorating to be with people who will not stand quietly and do nothing when human rights are violated.”

“I attend the Equity & Human Rights weekend because I’m very passionate about the issues discussed,” said Marilyn Yu, an Elk Grove Education Association member and 31-year teacher.

Indeed – the gathering brought together educator advocates and activists with its theme, “The Power of Disruption: Our Collective Journeys Toward Justice.” Workshops ranged from a session on how educators can fight back against attacks from those with an anti-public education agenda to BIPOC educators advocating for justice.

Much discussion at the session on BIPOCs advocating for justice.

Taking a well-deserved stand-up break at the session on “Building and Maintaining Community Schools.”

In “Soul-cial Justice & the Secondary Science Classroom,” teachers were led through the inquiry process through both a student lens and in reflection as teachers to elevate their practice of culturally responsive teaching, SEL, and science while engaging in hydroponics (a way to grow food without using soil).

“Soul-cial Justice & the Secondary Science Classroom.”

Another session showed how to use children’s literature to help dismantle racism and sexism one book/brick at a time.

Guest speakers included Ernest Crim III, a Black history teacher and author who talked about the tremendous influence educators and parents have in shaping our children. “Be intentional about what you say, recite or write about your kids,” was one of the points he made, offering personal experience of his mother setting him up with confidence and self-esteem. “Create a classroom culture of belonging and family, so that [kids] know they are welcome the way they are.”

Ernest Crim III (third from left) with CTA members after his talk.

CTA’s 2023 Human Rights Awards – standing at the top, from left: Melissa Fitzgerald, CTA Secretary-Treasurer Leslie Littman, Geoff Morganstern, Ron Espiritu, CTA Vice President David Goldberg, Grant Shuster, Vanessa Yava, CTA President E. Toby Boyd; seated from left: Frank Palad Mata, Nalik Davis Jr., Skye Tooley, Gretel Rodriguez, Stacey Yakimowich Chavez, Jeanna Tang, Dr. Phe X Bach. Photo: Chris Robledo

The highlight of the conference was the CTA Human Rights Awards on Saturday evening, March 18. Nine exceptional educators from across California were honored for their outstanding commitment to social justice and for promoting and protecting human and civil rights, both in the classroom and in their wider school communities. In addition, CTA chapter Anaheim Secondary Teachers Association (ASTA) received an award for its exemplary work for their members and in particular on community schools. The awardees:

Nalik Davis Jr., African American Human Rights Award in Honor of Lois Tinson

Vanessa Yava, American Indian/Alaska Native Human Rights Award in Honor of Jim Clark

Ron Espiritu, César Chávez “Si Se Puede” Human Rights Award

Dr. Phe X Bach, Pacific Asian American Human Rights Award

Skye Tooley, Human Rights Award for LGBTQ+ Advocacy in Honor of Nancy Bailey

Gretel Rodriguez, Human Rights Award for Women’s Advocacy

Frank Palad Mata, CTA Peace and Justice Human Rights Award

Stacey Yakimowich Chavez, CTA Member Human Rights Award

Jeanna Tang, Students with Exceptional Needs Human Rights Award

ASTA, CTA Chapter/Service Center Council Award Criteria


Read about the award winners here. See video of the award winners here.

CTA President E. Toby Boyd spoke to attendees on Sunday morning, saying he was grateful for their ongoing commitment and dedication. “It’s CTA members just like each of you who keep our social justice mission strong,” he said. “I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being here this weekend, for making equity and human rights a priority, and for all the work you do in and outside of your classrooms.”

Tabia African American Theatre Ensemble closed out the conference with a rousing performance that left the audience energized and excited.

Tabia African American Theatre Ensemble

Tabia African American Theatre Ensemble

Top photo: A few celebrants at CTA’s Human Rights Awards gala on March 18. At front center are 2023 Human Rights Awardees Skye Tooley and Stacey Yakimowich Chavez. Photo: Chris Robledo

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