Lowell Teacher Uses Scholarship Money to Connect with Diverse Students

4 April 2013

Last summer, Primary Source awarded three educators a scholarship to attend Cultural Proficiency in Today's Diverse Schools: A Multidisciplinary Approach, a summer institute for K-12 educators. Each scholarship winner was required to use ideas and resources they gained in the institute to implement meaningful projects in their schools. We caught up with scholarship winner Kathleen Flaherty recently to see how her projects are going and hear her thoughts on the importance of cultural proficiency for educators of diverse classrooms.

FlagsKathleen Flaherty
Lowell, Massachusetts

Scholarship winner Kathleen Flaherty teaches first grade and is the English Language Learners (ELL) Lead Teacher at the Charles W. Morey Elementary School in Lowell, Massachusetts. "I applied for the scholarship because I wanted to make more of a connection with the students and families at my school, and to understand where they come from culturally, geographically, and socioeconomically," says Kathleen. Around 80% of the students in her school qualify for free or reduced lunch, and like the schools in Revere, Lowell's schools have a very diverse student body: over half the students at Kathleen's school are Asian, 20% are Hispanic.

Kathleen used her scholarship money to purchase books to add to the school library. She is working with the school's literacy specialist and technology specialist to code and catalog the books to make them easily accessible for teachers through the library and website. "My hope is that teachers will borrow the books from the library and incorporate them into their lessons in the classroom."

She also sent home a survey to find out where her first grade students and their families have cultural ties. She then had her students color in flags for all the different countries represented, and combined them to create a poster illustrating her classroom’s cultural diversity. She would like to do more with the surveys and hopes that each year she'll be able to dig deeper into connecting with her students through the experience she is gaining from these projects.

After taking Primary Source's Cultural Proficiency summer institute and engaging with her students on a deeper cultural level, Kathleen says, "I learned a lot about the socioeconomic issues that affect my culturally diverse school, and I am definitely more sensitive to the situations my first graders are coming from when they enter the classroom."




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