story by Claire Miller
Teruko Dobashi-Taylor initially envisioned herself having a career as a classroom teacher who would support her students and encourage them to become life-long learners.
While she was a teacher, she took opportunities to develop curriculum, lead after-school and summer programming, and mentor new teachers – experiences that showed her how she could be an effective and inclusive educational leader.
Dobashi-Taylor currently serves as an assistant principal at Toomer Elementary School in Atlanta and is working on her doctorate in the College of Education & Human Development’s educational leadership program, where she is writing her dissertation on Black school leaders and school discipline practices.
“As a Black school leader, I realized that I may have internalized many stereotypes and oppressive ways of thinking. I must be cognizant to not implement practices or uphold policies that are steeped in anti-Blackness,” she said. “By examining Black school leaders’ experience disciplining Black students and exploring their personal connections, beliefs and biases, my dissertation could provide insightful information for all school leaders.”
Dobashi-Taylor takes her educational equity and diversity work seriously. At Toomer Elementary, she leads equity and inclusion professional learning opportunities for school staff, reviews discipline practices and data, and has facilitated sessions on equitable leadership practices for students in the CEHD’s Collaboration and Reflection to Enhance Atlanta Teacher Effectiveness (CREATE) teacher residency program.
In May 2021, Atlanta Public Schools (APS) celebrated Dobashi-Taylor’s hard work by naming her an APS Equity Champion. This designation, given to 10 school leaders and teachers across the district, celebrates individuals who affirm and appreciate students’ diversity, according to the APS website. Each champion is also given $1,500 to start an equity-focused initiative.
“Toomer Elementary School is doing the hard work to be trauma-informed, equitable and a community that promotes social and racial justice by exploring and addressing disproportionate discipline, exclusionary practices and implicit biases that negatively impact our marginalized students,” she said. “I am honored to work in a district that values diverse perspectives and focuses on diversity, inclusion and respect. I am grateful for the recognition and feel extremely honored and blessed to be acknowledged for the work I would do for free and will do for the rest of my life.”