Lower Division Director
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
It is with passion, commitment, and humility that we introduce ourselves to you as the DEIL team at St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s. Standing for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership, the DEIL team is dedicated to helping faculty foster an authentically multicultural school community for the benefit of all students and families. In line with the founding mission of Mother Ruth, the DEIL team works together and with the broader school community with an explicit focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and multicultural fluency and support.
DEIL is committed to serving the school’s mission of fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion by:
- Collaborating with faculty to examine with them their own multicultural experiences and the impact these experiences have on their interactions with students and families
- Examining with faculty the ways in which their cultural practices, values, and beliefs impact their teaching practices, curriculum choices, and relationships with students
- Assisting faculty in crafting curriculum, lessons, and assessments through a multicultural lens
- Remaining current on best practices of multicultural institutions and helping faculty remain current on best practices of multicultural education
- Bringing together various members of the diverse community to challenge and expand their view of what equity means
- Helping the faculty continue to develop a deep understanding of cross-cultural communication and interpersonal styles, in service of positive classroom experiences for children of all identities and backgrounds
- Providing and sharing with faculty professional development opportunities and curricular resources that focus on social justice, identity, equity, and diversity
- Facilitating Faculty SEED and Parent SEED groups
- Facilitation of Faculty Affinity Groups and Learning Spaces
- Facilitation of Student Affinity Groups and Learning Spaces
- Training and assistance to the Parents' Association as they facilitate Family Affinity Groups
The DEIL Team
On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously voted to approve a bill co-sponsored by Senator Markey and 60 others, including our own state Senators, Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand, declaring tomorrow, June 19th, a legal public holiday. Yesterday, President Biden signed it into law.
We turn again to our mission, which affirms our belief that all creation is sacred, and our commitment to an educational community that reflects unity in diversity
As part of the Science Department’s “Spotlight on Female Scientists” for Women’s History Month, students in Steven Schwartz’s seventh grade classes had a chance to listen to a presentation by the renowned molecular biologist Dr. Melanie Dobson.
“We wanted to honor the need for all children to see themselves as heroes,” said Seventh and Eighth Grade English Teacher Anne Rabbino.
“History matters, and here at St. Hilda’s, you care about your history.”
Last spring, we renewed our commitment to the cause of racial justice and our school's mission to recognize the sacred nature of everey member of our community. This letter outlines the work of the DEIL team to date, as well as some of the initiatives the school has planned for the coming year and beyond.
“I am determined to continue our work to educate children who will one day, as Mother Ruth said years ago, ‘tear down the walls and divisions that separate people of different cultures, creeds, and classes.’”
In Chapel, Lower Division French Teacher Deb Jordan-Levy discussed the importance of learning about different Francophone countries while studying the language.
“For us, Black History is not just about February; it is every day.”
“This event is titled a ‘Gospel Celebration,’” Minister Irventz Garçon said. “However, it is much deeper than that.”
“They Sold Human Beings Here” uncovers the mostly hidden and forgotten locations where enslaved people were bought and sold, accompanied by images of auction sites taken by photographer Dannielle Bowman.
Students and guest performers put on a spectacular Lunar New Year performance which included singing, dancing, and fireworks. View photos from this beloved all-school event here.
A lawyer and criminal justice reformer, Janos Martin '96 began to explore his passion for activism in second grade at St. Hilda's & St. Hugh's. Janos is still driven by the values his teachers imparted—morality, civics, and service to community.
As the second grade embarked upon their year-long study of the world, their technology class went along on the journey, with a stop-motion movie project to illustrate the movement of the continents, and a re-creation of the Q'eswachaka Rope Bridge in Peru.
Lower Division Learning Specialist Margaret Pennoyer began the new year by talking about different New Year's Eve traditions around the world.
Senior Kindergarten teachers Ms. Clark and Ms. Washington share their knowledge and personal experience with Día de los Muertos during Chapel.
During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, fourth and fifth grade science teacher Katie Behrmann talked with the upper division in Chapel about the challenges faced by people with disabilities and how the laws and practices of New York City and the entire nation affect them.
A new leadership team has been charged with amplifying our founder’s revolutionary mission and the values of equity and inclusion that remain a crucial part of St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s mission.
In September, third grade teacher and DEIL member Paula Lee spoke about the Korean harvest celebration Chuseok during lower division Chapel.
The head of school’s first Chapel address, which took place on the cusp of the school’s observance of Hispanic Heritage Month, highlighted the people and places of Washington Heights, a hub of Latinx culture overlooking the Hudson.
Alumna author Rabeah Ghaffari ’89 offered a reading from her recently published novel, To Keep The Sun Alive, in the C.V. Starr Library at St. Hilda's & St. Hugh's on May 23.
“I'll tell you what ‘freedom’ is to me—no fear!” The words of legendary soul singer Nina Simone inspired the students, faculty, and parents assembled at this year's Gospel Celebration, titled “A Journey of Love, Rooted in the African-American Tradition.”
Students honored the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by exploring the power of his words and taking inspiration from his influential “I Have a Dream Speech,” delivered at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.
“We are an Episcopal school founded to bring together children and families of all racial, socioeconomic, and religious backgrounds,” she said. “One of the crucial aspects of our program is helping children to become people of conscience and compassion. This is not a new endeavor for us—it has been part of our mission since our founding 70 years ago.”
“This is a dark moment that reminds us of the importance of choosing a path of peace. As a community, St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s chooses the path of peace and life.”
The class of 2018 continued a tradition of student philanthropy, launching a mini-campaign to make a class gift in honor of their graduation. The class raised $2,414 in one week and is being used to create a test-preparation scholarship for the benefit of a future eighth grade student.
Parents and faculty from St. Hilda's & St. Hugh's attended an April presentation and discussion facilitated by Dr. Sandra “Chap” Chapman (Director of Equity and Community at Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School) on “Parenting in the Age of ‘Isms.’”
Two educators from Symphony Space brought the sounds, rhythms, and movements of African dance to school on Feb. 22, spending a morning with our early childhood and lower school students.
Student musicians from grades 1-8, including the Brass Band, Chorus, and Instrumental Ensemble honored the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance at St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s annual Gospel Celebration.
A second grader stepped up to the lectern at Chapel to share the story of the Jain religion and the ways he and his family practice their faith at home, in school, and when visiting India. “I feel special to be a Jain at St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s,” he said.
Principles of educational diversity, equity, and inclusion were at the heart of St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s mission when it was founded in 1950.
Our founder, the Rev. Mother Ruth, envisioned St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s as a school that would reflect the diversity of New York City and would unite children and families from all backgrounds to learn from one another and about one another, tearing down the walls and divisions that separate people of different cultures, creeds, and classes.
Mother Ruth learned from experience the harm done by discrimination. As a biracial woman from Harlem, she faced rejection when pursuing her religious vocation in the United States. She went north to Canada, where she became a nun and earned a degree from St. Hilda's College, University of Toronto. When she returned to New York, Mother Ruth was determined to build a school that reflected the rich diversity of its city. Enrolling children from different racial, economic, and religious backgrounds, Mother Ruth countered the exclusive tradition that defined independent schools at that time.
For nearly 70 years, St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s has endeavored to fulfill and expand Mother Ruth’s inclusive mission, which recognizes the intrinsic value that each student, teacher, and parent brings to the school community: “We believe that all creation is sacred; each member of the school community is respected as a unique individual.” Additionally, the mission states, “We strive to create an educational community that reflects unity in diversity: a unity of purpose and shared values among a population diverse in race, culture, and religious beliefs.”
St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s school has remained committed to enrolling a diverse community and equitably serving its students, families, and faculty through its academic and co-curricular programs, and we have expanded upon our founder’s original definition of diversity to include ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation. This commitment requires us to be conscious about all the ways in which an individual constructs identity, and we joyfully embrace our vital role in helping students to feel fully themselves as they grow and develop. These efforts are integral to our curricular and co-curricular programming for students and families, as well as to our professional development activities.
My fellow trustees are deeply committed to our students and faculty—and to ensuring, as Mother Ruth intended, that access to an outstanding education should not be limited to one socio-economic class of children, or one race, creed, learning style, or family composition. They know, as she did, that the inclusive educational community here at St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s is transformative, not just for those of us who are part of it but for everyone whom we encounter. Our graduates become the kinds of leaders so sorely needed in the world today—those who work hard and play fair, who create with passion, who act with compassion, who dream, and who achieve. The Rev. Kathleen Liles
The school’s yearly calendar reflects a variety of national heritage months, feast days, and national/religious holidays to keep the deep diversity of our nation’s population at the center of our prayers and understanding. These heritage months are those set forth by the United States Library of Congress. Over the course of the year, the focus of Chapel will be to bring our students to a deeper understanding of their own lived experiences and those of others. These heritage months are in line with Mother Ruth’s mission for the school and they imbue our community's daily life by influencing the work done in our classrooms, the presentations given during chapel, and the screen imagery displayed throughout our building.