Photo caption: CEHD faculty members Jacob Hackett and Nadia Behizadeh have led King Middle School teachers and administrators through community walks, team-building exercises and instructional strategies that can be used to teach students about historical inequities and their current impact on school and student achievement.
story by Claire Miller
Clinical Assistant Professor Jacob Hackett and Assistant Professor Nadia Behizadeh received a $49,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Improving Teacher Quality State Grants Program to train local middle school teachers to incorporate social justice content into their curriculum.
Hackett and Behizadeh are working with Maurice Hobson, assistant professor of African-American studies in Georgia State University’s College of Arts and Sciences, and Project South, a community-based social justice organization, on the grant, which helps teachers at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Atlanta’s Summerhill neighborhood add more materials and activities focused on Atlanta history, the city’s participation in the Civil Rights Movement and the African-American experience.
“We synthesize these perspectives to support teachers to in turn support their students to be change agents with local political knowledge of the history and decisions that have disproportionately disenfranchised people of color,” Hackett said.
The grant team has led King Middle School teachers and administrators through community walks, team-building exercises and instructional strategies that can be used to teach students about historical inequities and their current impact on school and student achievement.
“It’s been an extremely valuable resource because it has enabled us to share historical facts and experiences with the students who live in these communities where so much of that history took place,” said Johnnie Ford, a longtime educator who has served as a literacy instructional coach at King Middle School for the last six years. “We’ve incorporated social justice writing to help give students a voice about things going on in their everyday lives and communities.”
Since the grant began, Ford believes the social justice curriculum – and the historical context it offers – has changed the way her students see their own communities.
“Students realize that they have an effect on what actually happens in their community and can see themselves as civic participants, instead of just being recipients of decisions that are made from people outside of their communities,” she explained. “They start to see the real value in voting and civic participation. They believe that they can have a say in their communities.
“As educators who work at a school named after a social justice leader, it is incumbent upon us to not only talk about Dr. King’s dream but to understand his dream and how we can be more effective in achieving his dream,” she added.