News Details

Meet the Office of Equity and Inclusion
Johára Tucker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we published the DEI Action Plan in July, a few parents and caregivers asked to get to know the equity and inclusion experts at the School. Head-Royce is deeply fortunate to have a team of five E+I practitioners who work on fostering a sense of belonging for our BIPOC students. Our E+I Deans are Barry Turner, Carol Montgomery, and Kyong Pak, our Associate is Julian Morris, and our Coordinator is Nicolette Fahey.  

I sat down with my colleagues (virtually) for this interview. Please read their responses to learn more about each person and what they uniquely bring to this work. 

– Johára Tucker, Director of Equity and Inclusion 

  

Barry Turner
Lower School Dean of Equity + Inclusion

My name is Barry. I have been at Head-Royce
for nine years and this is my third year as a 4th
grade teacher. 

  

Carol Montgomery
Middle School Dean of Equity + Inclusion

This is my second year at Head-Royce. In addition
to my new role as Middle School Dean of E+I,
I teach two sections of grade 7 history and a 
section of grade 6 English.

  

Kyong Pak
Upper School Dean of Equity + Inclusion

My name is Kyong Pak, and I am an Upper
School History teacher (10th and 11th) and
I also serve as the Upper School Dean of E&I.
This is my 3rd year at Head-Royce.

  

Julian Morris
Equity + Inclusion Associate 

This is my first year at Head-Royce and what
drew me to this position was the inclusion of
the E+I role as a part of, and not necessarily
an addition to, my employment. Anybody who
does DEI work will tell you that it requires a 
high level of attention and intentionality. So
to have the time and resources allotted to
dedicate to do this necessary work is invaluable.

  

Nicolette Fahey
Equity + Inclusion Coordinator 
This is my second year at Head-Royce, though
I’m currently on maternity leave! I look forward
to getting to know you all when I return.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How did you come to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work? 

  

I started teaching in 1999 and have been doing
this work in the classroom for the last 21 years.
Given the fact that I am a Black male teacher,
I feel it is my duty to take on this role. I believe
all voices have a story and I want to make sure
those voices are seen and heard in the classroom.

  

My DEI work in independent schools began
in Washington, D.C. I worked at a school
that was ripe and ready for DEI work. My
background in literacy and storytelling
allowed me to partner with innovative
colleagues in revamping the curriculum
to reflect our students and families and the 
greater D.C. community.

  

I started my teaching career in 2003 at the
High School for Law, Advocacy, and Community
Justice in New York City. It was a new school,
I was a new teacher, and we were tasked with
building curricula through the lens of advocacy
and social justice. It was an incredible, humbling
learning experience. I had to confront and reconcile
my own interpersonal biases and participation
in institutional oppression as an educator.
We were a public school and constantly faced
hurdles: underfunding and scarcity of resources,
high teacher turnover, and mandated state curriculum
that undermined our most vulnerable learners.
Every day was a challenge to maintain rigor, trust,
and humanity in a taxing environment, and those
years were formative for my teaching practice. Even
though the term DEI was not prevalent in schools
at the time, looking back it was all about DEI work.

  

I came to DEI work out of necessity. I’m a proud
Berkeley Unified School District alum and did not
understand how independent schools functioned.  
Because of the purposeful diversity that BUSD
has done since it integrated in the 1960s, I
benefited infinitely from seeing others that
looked like me and being seen by those that
did not. The fact that independent schools 
were created to maintain exclusivity across
social constructions wasn’t made apparent
to me until I worked in them. It was at the first
independent school I worked at where I knowingly
experienced microaggressions and came up against
institutional barriers to entry. Subsequently,
I learned about diversity, equity, and inclusion
work because those were the tools I needed
to thrive in these spaces. Because so much of
“the work” of DEI is enmeshed with my own lived
experiences, understanding and applying them in a
professional capacity is both the challenge and joy of it.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What does anti-racist teaching look like to you? 

  

Anti-racist teaching to me is when all students'
and families' voices are seen and heard especially,
in the curriculum. Don't be afraid to ask yourself
the tough questions. Who are the kids you're most
likely to punish or label? Who receives your praise
and how often? Who do you provide with positive
reinforcement? How and to whom do you offer
feedback on assignments aimed at helping to
improve achievement? Do you have high
expectations for all of your students? How do you
express your high expectations? These are just
some of the questions that I am always asking
myself on a daily basis.

   It’s teaching that is intentionally curious, purposefully
intersectional, sustainably uncomfortable, and
unapologetic in highlighting non-white voices,
stories, narratives, and pedagogies. It looks like
boldly confronting your biases and assumed
knowledge that you and your students have
absorbed, which is overwhelming but
anti-racist teaching requires the pervasiveness
of racism to be seen and named as a means
to contain what exactly you are. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you balance your DEI work with your classroom teaching? What does a “typical” day––during our virtual schooling––look like?

  

I think that this school year, more than in years past,
my work as an E+I Dean is really integrated with my
classroom teaching and that is so exciting and cool.
I teach 10th grade US History and 11th grade
Western Civ. As a social studies teacher, there are
so many opportunities to discuss systems of oppression,
as well as movements for justice, equity, and equality.
Our department’s mission statement aligns with our
School’s DEI Action Plan, which is the work I help
move forward as Dean. So I think of it less as a
balancing act, and more like knitting, and figuring
out the right tension to create that smooth stitch. 

Right now since we are in a virtual space, I've
been spending a lot more time meeting individually
with my students to get to know them a little
better as learners and as individuals. And a lot
of time learning about best practices for online
learning! So a “typical” day would be teaching,
with lots of meetings in between, and then
probably attending a webinar and/or lesson
planning in the evenings. And creating lots
of surveys! 

  

It remains to be seen what this “balance”
will look like as right now, I don’t really see
the difference. Successful distance learning
is in itself DEI work as so much of what
‘successful’ DL looks like depends on systems
and structural factors that are related to DEI.
What this looks like, from my screen, is
students and families feeling seen and heard
by their teacher. In my case, that means
jokes and show tunes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How does our Oakland-location influence your work, in the classroom, and in your advising? 

  

I truly love Oakland. I have some strong ties
with the Oakland community and have enjoyed
taking students on field trips to Marcus Books
in West Oakland and Lois the Pie Queen for brunch.
These are two of the oldest Black-owned
businesses in California.

   Oakland has an amazing history of activism and
I’m hoping we can engage with our local community
to expose students to what’s happening in our local
community. For the most part, we are a pretty
sheltered community here at HRS and our students
are pretty disconnected from what’s happening beyond
the news.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How did you feel when the School adopted our Anti-Racist Action Plan? What do you think Head-Royce needs to do to ensure this moment becomes a movement (to paraphrase Dr. Dena Simmons, from this summer’s webinar)? 

    

I am in support of the plan––I think it is a comprehensive
plan that requires the full participation of all of the
constituents in our community. So in order to sustain
this moment, I think we have to view ourselves as part
of an ecosystem. BIPOC faculty and staff cannot
shoulder the work alone. Anti-racist education is not
just the responsibility of affinity group advisors or
humanities teachers or Administrators.

An educator recently told me that schools can either
be a microcosm of the larger society or an incubator.
We can either indoctrinate our students into white
supremacist culture or guide students to new systems
and new ways of being with each other. Independent
schools are uniquely positioned to be incubators.

    

I’ve unofficially adopted the phrase “maintaining
and sustaining” since this past spring at the beginning
of the pandemic. As we collectively entered distance
learning, I quickly found out that there were many
unrealistic and unsustainable ways to survive a
global pandemic. Similarly, my hope is that we have
connected the dots enough from our own social
locations to recognize maintainable and sustainable
actions we can take to urgently not maintain white
supremacy. As an influential and visible institution,
Head-Royce must intentionally remove systems of
harm and replace them with systems repair. Otherwise,
we will continue to spread “contempt as a virus” as
Zadie Smith writes, which enables cycles of harm
against our BIPOC students to continue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Describe a time when you felt proud to be a DEI practitioner: 

    This summer I led four discussion sessions for staff
about A Summer WORKBook by Tamisha Williams.
The purpose of the workbook is for individuals
to take a deeper look at one's values and morals.
    Being a part of a strong team of practitioners
at the Hamlin School: It was amazing to be a
part of a dynamic cohort of teachers that
believed in and embraced an inclusive experience
for all students. Redesigning the curriculum to
reflect our students was inspiring and fulfilling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How are you finding joy and practicing self-care with all the world’s throwing at us: the pandemic, anti-Black police brutality, wildfires, the upcoming election? 

  

I spent some time sheltering with my parents
this summer. Obviously, we were home all day
so I got into cooking with my mom. She taught
me how to cook some of my favorite Korean dishes
(the easy ones), and I’ve been making the dishes
for my own children. A big family dinner outside
in clean air brings me joy. My act of self-care
this year has been practicing saying no.
   

Breathing, yoga, older romantic-comedies,
writing letters, meditation, writing, reading,
cooking and baking, not being on social
media, hikes, long walks, long phone calls
with friends, and reading stories over
FaceTime with my three-year-old niece.

    This summer I led four discussion sessions for staff
about A Summer WORKBook by Tamisha Williams.
The purpose of the workbook is for individuals
to take a deeper look at one's values and morals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And to send us off with some inspiration, what is a quote or saying that motivates you?  

    “Justice is what love looks like in public.” 
In DEI work, it’s really easy to forget what
is on “the other side” and what Dr. Cornel
West swiftly communicates is what that
reality looks like and, more importantly,
what it feels like.
     

“There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.” 
         – Zig Ziglar

      “I love America more than any other country
in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist
on the right to criticize her perpetually.”
         – James Baldwin