For many of you, school has ended and summer has begun. What school will look like in September lingers in the background while you finally take a break from Zoom and extra planning and effort to connect with your students and their families.
There are endings and beginnings for me, too. At the end of June, due to budget constraints, we are scaling back the YES! for Teachers program for the foreseeable future, and I will be leaving YES!
Going forward, YES! for Teachers will focus on offering discounted subscriptions to teachers, and you will still have access to online resources for teaching social justice, sustainability, and respect, and empathy. A monthly newsletter to keep in touch is planned, as well. Unfortunately, we will not host the National Student Writing Competition competition in the fall. Remember that YES! shares powerful stories every day! Our writers and editors are working triply hard at this moment to help you navigate these especially tough times with explanatory pieces, commentary, and how-to stories.
While I don’t know about what the long-term future holds for the YES! for Teachers program, I do know what we accomplished together was significant. I loved my work for many reasons. At the center, it was because I got to connect with you and your students in meaningful ways.
I am especially proud of:
Our student writing contest. We’ve hosted 25 contests with over 35,000 students writing essays in response to prompts, such as “What is your gift?” “Is hunting moral?” “Describe your position on the Constitution-Free Zone” and “Are you willing and brave enough to stand up to injustice?” Through this writing opportunity, I have helped students come out publicly, alleviate the stigma of depression and mental health, and embrace their racial, sexual, and individual identities.
Our tough topic discussion guides. These guides were created to have deliberate conversations on topics that are uncomfortable but necessary to discuss. Topics such as anti-Blackness, #MeToo, decolonization, and mass school shootings.
Our visual learning lessons. Abstract images were used to cultivate visual literacy and to dive deeper into understanding issues, such as the refugee crisis, the importance of bees, and housing foreclosure.
Our teacher stories. In their own voices, teachers shared their stories about discovering the beauty of teenagers, being a first-year teacher, connecting children and elders through permaculture, and other tales about their teaching—and what they learn.
I’ve had the great fortune to partner with incredible organizations along the way. These folks have excellent social justice resources that will push your teaching. A special shout out to Institute for Democratic Education in America, Institute for Humane Education, Rethinking Schools, Teaching for Change, Voice of Witness, Teaching Tolerance, and Zinn Education Project.
To your students: I believe in you. It was an honor to give you space to share your ideas, opinions, and voice. Thank you for trusting your teachers—and me—when we posed tough questions that had you venture to unknown territory and to other places that set you free. I am grateful that you are more accepting of all people than any generation and don’t have the patience to wait for adults to make this a better world. We need you now!
And, in closing, beloved teachers: Thank you for taking this journey with me. When I started with YES!, it wasn’t unusual for a teacher to tell me that the magazine sent to her school was mysteriously missing or that the cover was ripped off. Today, fewer of you are hiding your copies of YES! and, instead, are openly using our stories and lessons to help your students think critically, become problem-aware and solutions thinkers, and personally connecting to the world.
Have a wonderful summer!
With gratitude, solidarity, and every best wish,
Education Outreach Manager