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Embracing Identity in Education

Dena Simmons Offers an Important Cultural Education Discussion

— January 10, 2017 — Keynote Trends
Dena Simmons' cultural education discussion provides educators, parents and other individuals with a new perspective on the ways in which identity plays a role in the learning of young people.

After her mother moved Simmons from the Bronx to Connecticut in order to provide her and her sister with a safer place to live, Simmons began to feel as though she stood out in the new school she was attending. With teachers policing aspects of her that were strongly associated with her identity, such as her speech, Simmons began to realize the importance of culture in education. She excelled in school, received her M.A. and Ed.D from Colombia University, and became a Director of Education at Yale before going back to the Bronx to teach middle school. She used her own experiences to uplift the students that she teaches, centering her instruction on the lives, histories and identities of her students rather than ignoring them, denying them, or policing them.

With the vast diversity in the United States and the accompanying lack of history and cultural acceptance in education for children who do not fit into a very narrow category of privilege, Simmons' professional life is a testament to the fact that education can be accommodating, adaptable and work to empower all students rather than a select few.
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