Welcome to Humans of UP, a blog dedicated to sharing successes, events, news and spotlighting the students, staff, families and supporters that make the UP community as vibrant as it is.
UP CEO's Statement on Latinx Heritage Month
“For me, Latinx Heritage Month is a time to reflect on the deep contributions and accomplishments of the Latino community in our country’s history and the diversity within this community. Being Latina, it warms my heart to visit any of our schools and see the representation in our staff, to walk the halls and see bulletin boards with noted Latinos, or to attend school celebrations that embrace our students’ and families’ heritage. It all comes back to ensuring our kids have the exposure, experiences and resources to explore their identity, and what diversifies us, while simultaneously finding ways to connect. That’s why I do this work. To ensure every single student, regardless of race, ethnicity or ability has the same opportunities and tools to succeed and thrive.
During this month, I’m reminded of a story my mentor shared with me. He was an ESL teacher and had a newcomer student from Latin America who routinely left tests incomplete. Instead of getting frustrated, he started a conversation. He listened as the student described his passion for catching crabs with his family and cooking them for dinner. The student had learned everything about the crabs, from how to find them to what they eat, to how they grew. Similar to our newcomer/multilingual language learners (MLL), he had struggled to complete his test in English, but he was full of passion and knowledge in a way the test did not capture. I always carry this story with me because, as educators, we rely on data to measure progress, but our kids are more than that. And their stories and experiences are not just background; they are springboards to help them engage, learn and grow.
This Latinx Heritage Month, I’m excited to celebrate with our school communities and share what makes our diverse cultures and history so rich and vibrant.”
-Veronica Conforme, CEO, UP Education Network
UP's CEO Named 2021 Latinx Amplifier
We’re honored to share that UP’s very own CEO, Veronica Conforme, has been selected as a 2021 Latinx Amplifier!One of her nominators shared, “Veronica truly lives what it means to be a daring, creative and visionary leader and Latinx Amplifier in the education sector. She is committed to ensuring that every single student, but especially Latinx and Black students, and all students who have been historically overlooked and underserved, are afforded the same opportunities and resources as their white peers. Most importantly, Veronica is deeply invested in the success of our staff, students and families, and always keeps them front and center in all of her decision making.”We’re so proud of Veronica for this well-deserved recognition and appreciate the work Amplify Latinx is doing right here in Boston to bring greater recognition to our city’s Latinx leaders!
Carol Suh, Officer Manager, UP Academy Holland, Reflects on AAPI Heritage Month
“As with other social awareness months, AAPI Heritage Month is a time to recognize, uplift, and celebrate the culture and contributions of Asians in the United States. It is a time to reflect on how Asians play a role in American society and a time to support them as members of the community. Although there is a designated month to highlight AAPI, it is important to go beyond the calendar month and be aware that AAPI, just like those of other races, belong and are stakeholders in the United States’ melting pot. I think about when I was young, growing up in suburban (majority Caucasian) Pennsylvania and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in elementary school. We are supposed to be “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all,” yet the sociopolitical climate shows otherwise. In my personal experience, I have had the privilege to not face many instances of scrutiny for looking and being who I am. For the first time in a long while, after the Atlanta murders, I felt scared for myself, my family, and my fellow AAPI colleagues to be out in public. I want the UP Community, especially those who teach, to not shy away when students ask about race and ethnicity. Recently, one of my 3rd grade students, for whom I am the lunch/recess monitor, asked me where I was from. I knew the implication behind his question, but answered simply that I was from Pennsylvania. Then, I clarified to him that I understood that this wasn’t actually his question, and so I explained how my parents were South Korean immigrants and for this reason, I had certain physical characteristics. The student’s teacher and I then proceeded to discuss how this was a great opportunity to educate students on not only race/ethnicity/immigration, but also elicit and implicit questions. In this way, I believe that they will learn and feel empowered to be better allies for communities that are not just their own. The AAPI have deeply rooted history in the United States and their stories help paint a more vibrant picture of how the United States came to be.”
Brittani Bond, Interim Director of Operations, CFC, UAB“Brittani consistently delivers. She has high expectations for herself, and can take any idea and elevate it beyond what one might think possible. In her time at UAB, Brittani has worked tirelessly to bridge the gap between our school and our families. Sometimes, that unifying spirit looks like organizing an annual back-to-school barbecue in our school parking lot. It can also look like caring for a family experiencing trauma, ensuring they have the resources they desperately need after enduring hardship. Most recently that means being a literal #boss and stepping into a formal leadership role. As the Interim DOO, Brittani is communicative, urgent and poised. Brittani embodies excellence, and is a tremendous asset to the UAB Team. It is an inspiration to see Black Girl Magic at work when she is around. Our school is a much better place because she’s a part of the community.”-Rashidah Lawson, Principal, UAB
Amonique Cunningham, 8th Grade Math Teacher, UP Academy Boston
Amonique Cunningham was drawn to teaching because growing up she knew what it felt like to be a student and not have a teacher who looked like her. She joined UP Academy Boston as a Teaching Fellow in 2016 through the Sposato Master’s program. As a Teaching Fellow, she received training and support to prepare her to become a teacher. In 2017, she was hired full-time as the 8th Grade Math teacher.
Amonique shared “Sposato gave me the space and opportunity to grow my practice as a teacher both inside, and outside the walls of UP Academy Boston.” And Amonique’s distinct teaching practice is widely recognized around the school. One of her colleagues shared, “She is an excellent math teacher who delivers content using differentiated methods that caters to all levels of learners within her classroom.” Amonique was recognized at UP’s annual Summit this year as the recipient of the Excellence in Teaching award for UP Academy Boston. And she’s taking on a leadership role in the upcoming school year as the interim Dean of Curriculum and Instruction.
I love to see the sparkle and joy that comes when students are successful in class, and the determination and fight I see when the content gets a little tough. Our students are great. Our students are fighters. I owe it to them to hear their stories, to develop and better my practice in order to give them the highest quality of instruction, to respect them for their individual self and to love them.
6th Grade History Teacher at UAO
We asked Meagan to reflect on how the SEL Advisory periods have impacted her classroom, and she responded:
“Working with my group during Advisory/SEL has had a huge impact on the girls’ self esteem and confidence in school. I find that they are starting to be more reflective of their challenges and are giving a voice to them during advisory. They are finding commonalities, and are able to resonate shared experiences, something that is hard to find naturally in a virtual setting. They are sharing their hopes and dreams for the future, their concerns about middle school and the pandemic, and strategies for success. I have witnessed our students take the strategies they learned in advisory and apply them to the classroom and personal settings. Students are sharing with their peers how to ask for help and are offering to set up student led homework hours. Their compassion for their peers is starting to show as they are given the platform to express their concerns. As the year continues, the impact of SEL on my advisory group and UAO will be immense. This is a space that allows our students to feel heard and to develop a social emotional awareness surrounding common issues. I expect this to translate into stronger relationships, a sense of community, higher self awareness, and thoughtful student behavior.”
Thanks for sharing with us, Meagan, and keep up the great work of connecting your students’ academic journey to their social-emotional learning and long-term success.
Mr. Michael Carden
Math Teacher at UP Academy Dorchester
Congratulations to Mr. Carden, UAD Math Teacher, who was named Open Up Resources Math Teacher of the Month. Mr. Carden is being recognized for his outstanding work in his classroom and ongoing support of teachers across the country as a member of the Open Up Resources National Professional Learning Community.
Open Up Resource is a non-profit on a mission to increase equity in education by making excellent, top-rated curricula freely available to districts.The Open Up Resources 6–8 Math curriculum inspires a new way of teaching math by transforming classrooms into “hives of activity” focusing on discussion, questioning, debate, and the deeper conceptual learning of mathematics that follows.
Nominated by his colleagues, they shared:
“Mr. Carden is an extremely thoughtful educator who works to always balance high expectations with high support. As a team lead, Mr. Carden thinks often about how to support all students and ensures grade team meeting time is used for alignment and thought partnering around student support. Mr. Carden’s class builds strong academic habits and pushes students to articulate their Math specific questions and thinking.”
Lyndsea Arikian, DCI, UAD
Carden said he is enjoying coming up with new ways to use the curriculum to engage students and make learning fun. He said, “The inquiry-based approach to understanding and internalizing math concepts instead of drilling into mechanics with rote practice,” is his favorite part of teaching with the curriculum.
“Mr. Carden constantly thinks about the student experience and aims to ensure all students feel connected to their UAD learning community and the material they’re learning. Whether brainstorming ways to include enriching opportunities for students during remote learning or reflecting on and implementing feedback, he demonstrates his passion for teaching and working with students.”
Erica Andrew, Principal, UAD